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Anime Review: Zombie Land Saga Season 1

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Hey everyone, it’s Kernook here! It’s time for another anime review. Today we’re diving into an off-kilter idol anime with more than a few quirks. Zombies, singing and more, this is one weird show.

Yep, that’s right, I’m talking about Zombie Land Saga. I am going to try to be as objective as I can in my review of this anime, so I’m not going to needlessly bash the unholy crap out of it. That being said, I flat out do not like this show, and you will never convince me to like this series.

Why? Well, that’s strictly a personal taste in media. I actually loved it on the first watch, believe it or not. It was second and third watches through that left a foul taste in my mouth. Retrospection made me realize just how much I actually disliked it.

On the surface level it has strong animation, decent music, and a fairly strong cast of characters all things considered. So yeah, as much as I don’t like it, the series is far from “bad” on its face, trust me on that.

If it was just awful by nature, I’d bash the series in every unrepentant way possible. There’s no need to do that, because it is more or less a solid show, aside from a few very pointed gripes that ruin it for me on a personal level.

I’ll be fair to the show, but please be fair to me. You’re not expected to agree with me.

As I’ve stated before, one of the key ways I build a “watch list” every season is to pick at least one anime I know I probably won’t like. The link for that post is down below, for reference.


As a refresher for the rest of you, every season that my watch-list isn’t bursting at the seams, I tend to choose an anime or two that I know I’ll probably hate. I do this just to give it a try. As an anime fan, I find that to be a fundamental part of personal growth and broadening my horizons.

I have been pleasantly surprised in the past by this method. On occasion I do get hooked into a series and I truly enjoy it.

This doesn’t always happen though, and Zombie Land Saga is a good example of when that doesn’t work for me. I don’t mind some idol anime, but really if I’m going to enjoy an anime that contains idol culture something more along the lines of Perfect Blue suits my personal tastes far better. Normally though, I’ll go for grittier band anime like Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad or Nana.

So, with those upfront caveats out of the way, let me attempt to review this thing as objectively as humanly possible.

This is only a review of season one, as I absolutely see no reason to ever watch season two.

Zombie Idols

Okay, strap in and suspend your disbelief right here and now. That’s the only way to make it through a series like Zombie Land Saga, because as much as it’s a commentary on idol culture itself, it’s also occasionally stupidly funny for the sake of it.

When a fandom affectionately names a speeding truck, yeah, you know this is not a series that you should take seriously. Honestly, the fandom’s beloved “Truck-kun” likely has one of the single most hilarious moments in the first episode, not going to lie.

The first season of Zombie Land Saga came out in 2018, during a mild lull in the hype that was idol anime. They were a dime a dozen by this point, but the series promised to offer typical fans of the genre something different.

Directed by Munehisa Sakai and written by Shigeru Murakoshi, this is not their best work for reasons I’ll get into when I discuss the plot.

The music is notably credits two different contributors. The first is Yasuharu Takanashi. This is a composer I actually really enjoy, known for his other musical talents with shows like Naruto Shippuden, Hell Girl, and Ikki Tousen. The second is Funta7 a Japanese rock band that has made themselves a rather decent fan following by writing music for anime such as Zombie Land Saga.

The anime has several good qualities, particularly when it comes to the cast of characters and the representation of the transgender community within it. I can honestly say most of these girls are compelling enough on a surface level to make you want to know more about them instantly.

I can’t speak for season two, but as far season one goes, Lily is by far one of the best written transgender characters ever to be seen in anime. I will stand by that without question. Her existence isn’t defined by her gender performative actions, or her occasional lack of them. We aren’t beaten over the head with the concept either. Lily is who she is, and that’s the way life is. It’s that simple, and I can’t praise that enough.

The fact she’s transgender at all is merely accepted as a fact of life. Her existence is constantly validated by the fact that no one surrounding her makes a huge or complicated ordeal out of it. By and large, the characters don’t find her identity to be an issue at all.

That is worthy of merit for a discussion of representation in anime. Lily deserves a blog post all of her own, because I can count on one hand the number of prolific transgender characters that resonate well within the confines of anime. Lily’s identity is as strong and unquestionable as any other core character within Zombie Land Saga, without being overbearing or seeming like virtue signaling.

One of the nice things about Zombie Land Saga was that it held true to its promises about being different than typical idol anime fodder… at least, at first. Later on it really drops the ball on this, but I’ll speak more on that later.

The series begins with the same sort of cynical outlook that Perfect Blue has. Showcasing the drawbacks of the industry in almost every way. The girls in the series are ones who either want to be idols, or were famous at one point in their lives, only to end up dead in some way or another.

Being brought back to life, these zombie girls are objectified by their producer Tatsumi Kotaro, a guy that literally is just flat out crazy. When he isn’t acting criminally insane, he’s a pure eyesore on screen. He’s played off for laughs, but seriously, it can be hard to find humor in him, at least for me.

The abuse going on in idol culture is no laughing matter. This guy is the long running joke that really isn’t funny. He’s actually one of the reasons why I came to hate the series.

This deconstruction of typical idol anime really is a smart way to do an idol series though, right down to the asshole producer with more ego than common sense.

Tatsumi seeks to revitalize the very fictional “Saga Prefecture” in Japan by putting together the all-zombie idol group, because apparently that won’t just shock and terrify the entire world…

Actually, that’s a commentary that occurs in the first episode when a poor police officer lodges a bullet right into the newly minted zombie girl, Sakura Minamoto. Needless to say, that’s just more proof that the majority of the strong content is in the front of the anime, not the back of it.

Now is around the time when I would discuss the plot, but sadly, there really isn’t one. This is where the series begins to have some real problems.

Revive Idols & Bury the Plot

This is not an easy issue to pin down, but we don’t we have a plot in the first place. I can’t even pin down why we don’t have a plot for the anime. We just don’t, or if we do, it isn’t objectively functional beyond a certain point.

Seriously, did Tatsumi leave leave the story in the ground or blow it to smithereens? Did the show runners just shout “Idol!” really loud into the air, causing a huge scramble during production?

I really do have to ask. What happened here? What impossibly large brain fart caused the plot to go missing?

I just don’t understand how that could even happen. We have in front of us an anime bursting with serviceable animation, decent music, and a fairly strong cast of characters… but we have no actual plot to tie everything into a nice little package. For some people, myself included this will be a huge issue for the show.

First of all, Zombie Land Saga isn’t clear about what the “Saga Prefecture” needs to be saved from, or why anyone needs to save it in the first place. Why bring that up if you’re not going to detail that out? How in the world do idols even “save” anything if the situation was that detrimental in the first place.

You could argue that the vaguely hinted at debt crisis to the prefecture is the problem. However, that’s subtext at best, and you have to dive deep to look for it. The idea of having more idol groups to boost the economy in the area could have some merit, I suppose. Unfortunately, when you have to use that kind of slow and meticulous logic, it clashes with the confines of the show.

Suspending your disbelief matters here, and the lack of a plot is something you will have to shrug off.

The other option for plot only really works when subversion is at play. The fact that Tatsumi is a just a raving lunatic remains a far more plausible conclusion by its nature. Either way, we don’t really get an answer for why these girls have to be in this situation in the first place, only that they do.

All other idol anime have a clear goal, dream, or plot driven reason for why things happen. This series just doesn’t, and while it could also be a subversion of the norm, it is not the best choice from a narrative lens.

Thankfully, on the first viewing the spectacle and novelty of the series allowed me to overlook this. There’s a real charm here, the only issue it doesn’t last after the first time through.

Any subsequent viewing made it impossible for me to ignore the continually obvious lack of plot. Worst still, it’s even more obvious the more times you watch it, which is why I won’t ever watch this show again.

I’m not saying there needs to be a deep or complex story. I’m saying there needs to be a story in the first place to tie up those random plot threads. Otherwise the series comes down to strictly the core cynicism I stated about the show above, and that outlook is a very bleak one.

Speaking of that core cynicism, in the second episode there is an actual rap battle that really highlights all of the things this anime could have been. It’s gritty, it’s punchy, and above all it is very entertaining.

The only issue is, the anime didn’t put its bets on the places it worked, and it lost its way a few times in later episodes. The girls eventually find a fulfillment in being zombie idols, but there was no real weight to that decision, so it’s hard for me to really accept it.

I just don’t find that conclusion to be satisfying on its own. Cynicism and subversion are very strong building blocks to great anime, but they are not the only ones you require unless you’re going to unflinchingly stick to that core ideology for entire series.

To think that was all this show aimed to be, would be rather insulting because it doesn’t stick to that theme. However, we can’t discuss this series without a firm look at its subversive elements, either.

Subversion Takes Center Stage… Until It Doesn’t…

Zombie Land Saga makes you believe it will be nothing but subversion when you get right down to it. The characters, the comedy, the practice montages, and the performances on stage, all of it…

At the start, subversion is all we really get, and its all we ever really need. The anime has one single ethos; to comment upon what it means to be an idol. Subversion and satire of idol anime and the idol industry at large is the main goal of the show.

Early on, the series dives into those concepts so heavily, you just can’t look away from it. Even the characters themselves often come down to subversion of usual tropes found in idol anime.

The fact they are even zombies at all, but don’t naturally air that to the public, is a direct satirical commentary on the idol industry. It basically spits upon the near puritan and painted on culture that surrounds the people involved.

Even the lack of any real plot can truly just come down to “because Tatsumi said so” if subversion continued to carry the heaviest theme in the show. As an idol, you do what you’re told, and that’s the way it is. Objectified, because you are expected to conform to a point beyond reason.

The idol world is often insidious by its nature, but that nature is so grotesque that we don’t often care to think about it. Zombie Land Saga forces you to see the direct metaphor. Furthermore, it doesn’t mind being offensive to get the point across. It never crosses a line, but it isn’t kind in its critiques, either.

Sadly though, the series doesn’t cling onto that cynical metaphor, and eventually the zombie girls decide to work together. They decide to be the best zombie idols they can be, and this is where all of those early episodes give you a bait and switch.

There comes a time when that far more cynical satire is replaced for normal comedic situations. Over time, the subversive performances are forgotten. Instead, we just get more idol anime fare like the rest of the shows out there.

After Zombie Land Saga replaces some of that cynicism, we get some real nicely thought out character moments and decent backstories.

Sadly though, I just don’t think it is enough to carry the show at that point. That’s why the lack of plot I mentioned above bothers me so much. It only really works when you cling onto subversive elements like a vice, but the show doesn’t do that all the way through.

There comes a time that Zombie Land Saga becomes just another typical idol anime with zombie paint over the top of it. While there is nothing wrong with that, in my opinion it doesn’t live up to the genius satirical comedy that preceded it.

In short, this is why I came to hate the series. It really is a letdown for me as I see so much wasted potential.

Final Thoughts

The best thing about idol anime is to find a character you want to follow and invest yourself into them. You want to watch them succeed. This isn’t too unlike how fans often treat idols in real life. However, following an anime character that avidly typically harms no living, breathing person. After all, it is only an animated character, and there’s a bit of silver lining to be found in that.

Zombie Land Saga has an incredibly strong cast, and really after the satire dies out, that’s the only thing this anime really has going for it. The songs are good, but only because of the characters themselves.

The songs are extensions of these characters, brought to life by their emotional investment in what being an idol really means to them. Each girl has a different answer to that. Those themes are expressed though their personal conflicts and their unified performances on stage. The songs would not hold up well if the girls singing them weren’t characters we cared about.

To me the ideal viewer of this show is what I like to call a “popcorn anime fan”. That means it caters to fans that don’t want to think too deeply upon the anime they’re watching. They just want to watch it and enjoy it. There are a lot of people like this out there, and I myself have a few “popcorn anime” I thoroughly enjoy.

I wouldn’t even call this anime a guilty pleasure, because like I said, there’s nothing god awful that’s wrong with it. There’s no reason to feel guilty about liking this show. However, there’s plenty of reasons to hate the show too, and there’s nothing wrong with that either.

Zombie Land Saga is an incredibly well made series, at least up until it isn’t. I think the first three episodes are the strongest over all. Episode eight is also a noteworthy one.

All-in-all, it’s fine until you try to really dig into it. While some people probably could, that reach would be limited. I’d argue that only the most staunch idol fan base, or those who have a deep knowledge of idol culture itself would be able to truly study this anime intellectually.

I’m no expert, therefore for me the series misses the mark after the satire slowly dies out. There’s just not enough for me to sink my teeth into without doing a true deep dive on the minutia of details idol culture has to offer, and I just don’t care enough about the series to do that.

If you like idol anime though, Zombie Land Saga is a series you absolutely have to watch at least once. Give it four episodes at the very least, simply for the subversive elements and commentary alone. I’d say that for a fan of the genre it would be considered required viewing, and probably a touchstone for the fan base itself.

For me though, the anime is just mediocre and it can’t live up to my personal test of time. I should never have watched it multiple times, but I did and that perspective is what ruined the experience. To me a good anime is one that I can return to no matter what, and I won’t be returning to this one. Therefore, it fails the most important test I have when measuring for a quality standard.

Fans of the series are entirely entitled to disagree, as there may in fact be something in the series that speaks more deeply to them than t ever could for me. That’s the beauty of anime as an art form. At the end of the day I stand by the ideology that anime will always be artistry, and therefore even an anime that is not for me is capable of speaking to a great many people.

This has been Kernook of “The Demented Ferrets”, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. If you liked this content, please be sure to check out some of our other content below.

I’ll see you next time…

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Anime Review – Your Lie in April

Hey everyone, it’s Kern here. Today I’m reviewing a drama anime, before I do though we should define the difference between drama and melodrama.

Drama is a noun. In the context of this review it means to express an exciting, emotional, or unexpected series of events or set of circumstances. Melodrama is also a noun, but it means to sensationalize a dramatic piece with exaggerated characters and exciting events intended to appeal to the emotions. Sensational means over the top in this instance, but unless you’re Penny Polendina from “RWBY” sensational doesn’t always mean its good.

Actually, I’d argue that most bad drama anime are accidentally melodramas by their nature. Good melodrama is even more difficult to write than drama itself. For example Oniisama e, also known as Dear Brother is a melodrama anime done right.

Unfortunately, crappy drama anime are dime a dozen, melodramaticin all the wrong ways to a fault, and searching for cheap ways to pander to the viewers because that’s the easy thing to do. We’ve all seen them out there.

Every year more mindless drivel gets released only to be forgotten. To be honest, good drama anime are very difficult to come by. That’s why Your Lie in April is an important anime to discuss.

It isn’t a melodrama by its core nature, and it isn’t particularly bombastic either. At the end of the day, Your Lie in April is very well written drama anime.

Your Lie in April or Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, released in 2014. It was directed by Kyōhei Ishiguro and written by Takao Yoshioka. The studio that worked on this dramatic title was A-1 Pictures, so you know going in that the music is going to be amazing and the animation quality isn’t going to flounder under its own weight.

There is plenty of media for this series, including manga and a light novel, as well as an OVA. I’ll just be focusing on the anime though.

For me personally, it wasn’t the hardcore gut-punch that many claimed it to be. That being said, it shouldn’t be overlooked or bypassed. To even think otherwise would just be flat out stupid, because there are so many things this anime gets right.

A Simple Story Done Right

Your Lie in April isn’t about complicated interwoven narratives. It can’t carry the same sort of gravitas that some other great anime can. It doesn’t need to do that, and it doesn’t attempt to be more than it is. I can really respect series that understands the core messages and themes it conveys.

Let’s be honest, painting a narrative that encapsulates themes of traumatic experience and coming of age concisely and consistently isn’t always easy. These are teenage characters, but Your Lie in April manages to handle the story incredibly well.

It’s a simple story filled with complicated emotions. It isn’t anything more than that, and it doesn’t want to be. Therefore, what we have instead is a true series of heartfelt emotional turmoil, and the process of overcoming it.

We follow a boy by the name of Arima Kōsei, who is as troubled as could be. After his mother’s death, he lost his love and passion for the piano. He can’t even listen to the sound of his own playing without being bogged down by the emotional weight of it all. Suffering a mental breakdown at a young age, two years later he still struggles with his trauma.

At the beginning of the anime, about halfway into the episode Arima describes how he experiences the world. To him it is a place full of monotone. The vibrancy and thrill of life itself is something he just can see for himself anymore. This is a metaphor for a slew of deeper issues, but on a surface level saying he’s chronically depressed isn’t an understatement.

The catalyst for his emotional levity comes in the form of a young blond haired girl named Kaori Miyazono. She is a skilled violinist with a free spirited personality and a passion and flair for music arts.

Kaori lacks a fair amount of restraint, and Arima observes she has a bit of a violent personality at times. Regardless of that, he’s very interested in her. Kaori’s musical talents and her outlook on life are the influences he needs the most. She lacks his stringent views of the musical arts and she fills a void in Arima’s creative ability.

Slowly and with no small amount of effort, Kaori revitalizes Arima’s love of music. Through her, he begins to see music as an outlet he needs. Slowly, the world becomes a vibrant place for emotional and personal growth once more.

See what I mean? Your Lie in April has a simple and uncomplicated plot. As you can probably guess, this means the anime needs to dig deep to be fully enjoyed. The plot is an emotional journey of the soul itself, a story of triumph over trauma… or in some cases, acceptance over grief.

It’s not groundbreaking by any means, and I’d hesitate to call the series foundational to the anime medium, because it isn’t those things. That being said, the anime is a beautifully told story. Concepts of love and the desire for hope are focal points for the characters. It is what drives the plot forward.

Familial love, romantic love, a passion for hobbies and interests, and a love for life itself trickles into the narrative commonly enough. Hope for the future is what blend the ideologies of these youths together.

Love in spite of trauma and hardship. Love in spite of grief, and love clung onto tightly even when letting go of the past, are all themes well represented here.

Hope and inspiration are the balm for Arima’s traumatic past and his emotional burdens. The healing powers of music plays a strong role here as well. Showcasing that for some people, music is not only a talent, it’s a legacy.

There is also a thick layer of metaphor here, as music is used as a way to connect these characters. It gives us a deeper clarity to who these people really are. Rather than having a character simply go on long and cumbersome diatribes, music becomes the looking glass that allows us to really see beyond their carefully constructed masks.

To be clear, every character has one one these masks, the “lie” you could say. Even the free spirited Kaori is not exempt from this. She has once too, and it is just as tragic and cumbersome as Arima’s own.

The cast is huge. Since the anime is only twenty-two episodes in length, many don’t get the time they deserve. This isn’t too awful though, as the series was never meant to hold aloft a complete medley cast of characters.

At the end of the day only two characters really matter, Arima and Kaori. Everyone else just functions as plot threads to build the world these characters inhabit. Many of the side cast don’t get fully completed stories, and since the plot is so centrally focused anyway, it doesn’t rightly matter.

However for all of the good things this series does manage to do well, there’s just one way it entirely fails in every way possible.

Repetitive Trauma: Eventual Desensitization

Trauma is not a one-size-fits-all narrative lens. After an emotionally crippling experience, recovery has highs and lows. Recovery isn’t easily attained, meaning cycles of repetition can occur. Even though it is very factual to life, generally speaking it isn’t very satisfying to watch.

The cycle of trauma is a vicious one. When poorly handled, it can come off as overbearing. As fans, we usually expect better of protagonists by default and that doesn’t help. We want to hear stories of victory, but in some ways this is a story about loosing more than winning.

By its pure definition, trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. That means it sinks into a person with a vice-like grip. You don’t just get over it. That’s not how deeply seeded trauma works.

There is a “two-steps-forward and one-step-back” mindset that hard hitting emotional trauma causes. Recovery itself isn’t a linear path. Enter in Arima to that cycle of repetition, and we can see where this causes the main issue I have with Your Lie in April.

Arima is incredibly human for his depiction of circular patterns of thinking. He has a tenancy of falling back down into his own poor mental state.

Several times in the show we see how this impacts him emotionally. There is no question about how heavily it weighs down upon his poor self-image. We can’t avoid the topic, the anime won’t let you.

Although, to a point touching upon his trauma happens too frequently. It’s easy to get bored with him or to lose any ounce of sympathy you have with him. A huge part of that comes down to his constant inner monologues.

His struggles would negatively impact anyone, but especially a boy like him. We don’t need that point beaten into us, yet it often is.

While many characters use music to truly express themselves, there are times the thick and heavy mental state of the characters does that job too. Particularly where Arima is concerned, it can be too much.

I praised the show’s ability to use music as a means of emotional expression and metaphor. That’s because when those moments don’t happen, we get the exact opposite.

Sometimes it seems like the series thinks it needs to beat the point of his anxieties into us, because we’re too stupid to figure it out on our own.

When inner monologues do happen, they’re long and almost too heavy handed. Sometimes it detracts from the musical piece on stage to have the monologue laying so thickly over the top of it. This isn’t a psychology or sociology anime. In the attempt to make Arima feel more like part of humanity, what we have instead is a loss of that human nature itself.

In a way, that’s almost genius. No, I’m not kidding. Listen, it doesn’t matter if we want to admit this or not. It is pure fact. Arima is the personification of what trauma does to a person when left untreated. He should have gotten the help he needed long ago, but he didn’t and what we see is that result. Trauma harms his way of thinking in different ways, damaging the greater logic he needs in order to see his own self-worth.

As much as it sucks to realize this, that holds true to reality. This is why so many people just don’t recover from emotional strain in real life. Even when they think they are on the road to recovery, they can be proven wrong, and it can resurface or come back with a vengeance.

Across several episodes, Arima describes playing the piano as if being under water. The sound dulled, or at times he’s down so deep he can’t hear it at all. While these moments showcase his true anxieties well, it comes so often that it can feel like you’re watching versions of the same scene over and over again.

The issue is though, real life trauma and creative narrative stories don’t always mix very well. This isn’t a true story. These are characters and this is an anime. We need to be able to see the humanity in the characters too, not just the mental struggles they present to the story.

Your Lie in April is not anything like Anohana, that’s for damn sure. This is why it lacks the emotional gut-punch for me. We lose the character Arima to his own brain more times than not. Their mental diatribes lack parts of the core human experience. Notably, it and quite sadly, it lacks any real catharsis.

It gets to a point where I just don’t care about Arima, because I feel like he’s a character better suited to far more heavy handed series. Your Lie in April isn’t by its nature a dark series. It’s emotional, sure, but it’s not dark and gritty.

There’s too much poorly placed comedy to really draw me into a darker narrative. The over all tone of this series doesn’t suit a darker narrative anyway. tragic storytelling is not the same as dark storytelling.

All-in-all this is the largest issue in the series and for some it could even be a deal breaker. I know several people who dropped the show because of Arima alone midway through.

Honestly, that’s a real shame because Kaori’s story is just so damn good in the second half to a point she nearly steals the show, and for good reason.

Speaking of Kaori, by now you’re probably wondering why I am avoiding saying too much about her. Well, I wish I could say more on that, but I won’t.

No, really, I can’t dive into that, because it is way too fundamental to the story to speak at length about it. I don’t want to spoil her story arc for those who haven’t seen the series. I want you to watch it and see it for yourself.

What I will say is that Kaori is the reason you watch this anime. Her message, her emotional traumas, and her bond with Arima aren’t things you just pass up. All of it is just just too good, and it will kick your ass emotionally more than Arima alone ever could.

It also finally gives Arima the catharsis he’s needed for the vast majority of the twenty-two episode run time. So yeah, sorry, can’t spoil it. You’ve got to experience it for yourself.

Final Thoughts

Yes, there are many flaws with this show. Even so, it doesn’t diminish that Your Lie in April is one of the best drama anime out there. While it doesn’t usually portray as melodramatic, it can toe the line sometimes.

The series is also possibly one of the best examples of how real trauma manifests in a person. The series explains why it is not so easy to move beyond it. The show fully displays those difficulties even when its a hindrance to do so.

That legitimate “two-steps-forward and one-step-back” traumatic cycling is very hard to find in any anime series. Usually it just isn’t done well. Normally it has some supernatural or magical component to it… or there are time skips clogging the recovery itself.

Your Lie in April offers that distinct personal looking glass of that trauma inwardly. On top of that, it manages to do it in a fairly digestible way. Completely accessible for teenage viewers and with a core theme that suits reality. Often times people in mental health recovery programs take up the arts as form of healthy outlet. Arima’s coping skills through music are very reminiscent of that, even though music is part of his trauma in the first place.

It’s a messy message to send, I won’t deny that. However that alone holds true too. Trauma will never be clear cut, and it would be impossible to avoid the triggers that cause trauma for your entire life. Learning to move above and beyond that will never be simple. One day, you need to find the way to cope with it, or you’ll just continue to suffer.

Arima learns that the hard way, but it is a lesson we all come to learn in our lives at some point.

Kaori’s involvement in his life, and his newfound love of music isn’t a cure-all, and that’s the key. Thanks to Kaori’s influence and using music as a touchstone, Arima finds a way to deal with his traumatic life experiences in a helpful and meaningful way.

Now, are there better depictions of this sort of theme out there? Sure there is! However, all of those better examples I come up with aren’t as easily accessible to viewers, or they’re filled with concepts just aren’t useful for younger teenagers.

Your Lie in April doesn’t shy away from emotional difficulties, but I’d never say the anime goes too far down the rabbit-hole either. It can be heavy handed, but I wouldn’t call it nightmare fuel by any means.

This strong balance makes it one of the best drama anime out there that focuses on traumatic life experience. If that sort of thing interests you, then you have to watch this anime and come up with your own opinions. There’s no question about that.

This has been Kernook of “The Demented Ferrets”, where stupidity is at its finest, and level grinds are par for the course. If you liked this review please be sure to check out similar content down below, plus a few announcements of upcoming anime review content.

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Anime: Zombie Land Saga in the first week of June.
Game: Valkyria Chronicles for the PlayStation 3 also in the first week of June.

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Game Review: Resident Evil 3: Nemesis

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Hey everyone, it’s Kernook here. By now, it should come as no surprise to you that I’m a huge fan of the Resident Evil franchise, and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis from 1999 is by far my favorite title in the old series of games. I love this game, and I return to it often on my PlayStation that has seen far better days.

That being said, Resident Evil 3 is not a perfect game. Objectively Resident Evil 2 stands as the far better game, and the reasons why I like Resident Evil 3 are personal to me. Don’t worry, I won’t be speaking through rose tinted glasses here. Just because it is my absolute favorite, that doesn’t mean I don’t see the flaws.

The game has some very clunky elements. Questionable decisions were made that just don’t allow the game to have that same polished feel that its predecessor had. The game is certainly a step sideways rather than forwards when it comes to enhanced gameplay.

So let’s dive in and take a look at this amazing game, and why it fell a little short.

The Burdens of an Acclaimed Reputation

As I explained in my Resident Evil review, the game was a spiritual successor to Sweet Home, and the birth of survival horror as a genre. Due to the huge success, a second game came shortly after, and the fans clamored over all of the wonderful new additions Resident Evil 2 had to offer.

In the late 90’s Resident Evil had proven itself to be a series that was beloved by gamers everywhere, and this made it a hit. With two widely successful games in the series so far, and sales filling their pockets, Capcom knew they had a real gem to work with. A few spin-off games were already in production, but Capcom didn’t want the fans to wait too long. This resulted in another developmental kerfuffle.

They had faced one of these controversies in the past. I’ve highlighted that particular mess with my review of Resident Evil 1.5, which you can read here. The short version is this; Resident Evil 2 had a prototype that was scrapped due to disagreements in the development process.

Ultimately, this resulted in a lackluster game that was never finished. This prototype is loved by a select few, and is known in the fandom as Resident Evil 1.5.

Those still on the team at the time revitalized the game from the ground up. This was the right decision, making Resident Evil 2 the success it stands as today. Upon release, it quickly made incredible sales numbers. Many fans argue it’s the best game in the entire series, and really among the classic games it is very hard to dispute this fact.

Anyway, perhaps these past lessons about rushing the development process hadn’t been learned. Two spin-off titles were being produced at the time, and instead of making an entirely new title, both of these spin-off titles were in the running to take the place as the third official entry in the series.

For clarification, one game was Resident Evil: Nemesis. The other was Resident Evil: Code Veronica.

Quite frankly, I believe this is the core issue with a lot of the problems the game has. It stands to reason that taking a spin-off title and trying to contort it into a main story leaves, much to be desired.

Side Note: A Theory I Have

To be honest though, I don’t think the rush to release a new title was entirely unsound. Even though I do think the game did suffer a bit because of it. I’m sure that the precedent set by the swift release of prior games made the developers and the production staff behind the game feel a true sense of urgency.

Other horror titles were also in production by competing studios at the time, and this likely had a part to play in the decision to rush to a release. The games slipping into the market would promise some very heavy competition. What games you ask? That’s a very good question.

There are a few, but namely Silent Hill comes to mind as one such powerhouse title. It was in production at the time, and saw an earlier release in 1999 as well.

I can only imagine that the knowledge of Konami working to release Silent Hill in a timely manner, and Squaresoft releasing Parasite Eve in 1998 proved to Capcom that their hold over horror games on the PlayStation could be considered fickle at best. It is merely a theory, but I’m sure this contributed to some of the rushed decisions we ultimately see when in regards to Resident Evil 3: Nemesis.

What is important to remember is that while there were many horror titles in the original PlayStation era, few series were as popular, or as widely loved as Resident Evil or Silent Hill.

It is true that Clock Tower comes to mind as one such series that may stand up well against them, but due to gamers already knowing of that franchise as early as 1995, it’s hardly a fitting comparison. It released before the first Resident Evil had even seen the light of day, and Clock Tower already had a strong fan base crossing over from other platforms.

The Chosen Successor

From here on out, I will be calling the prototype to the game the “Nemesis prototype”. Capcom eventually chose their Nemesis prototype to become the third game in the series. It would proudly bear the number three upon it’s front casing, with the titular monster standing menacingly behind the title. When fans saw the game, we were hyped, and we just couldn’t wait to get our hands on it.

The game is known to us now as Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, released in September of 1999.

The issue is, this game was crafted to be a spin-off title first and foremost. It was never built or conceptualized to be a main series title. Originally, it had been handed to a small, and frankly very inexperienced team of people. The sort just getting their feet wet with larger and widely loved titles.

There was little knowledge among the group when it came to the vast lore of Resident Evil as a series. The game was intended to star an entirely new character, attempting to escape the horrors of the city now infested with zombies. However, this creative choice would not stand well against the already released and widely popular Resident Evil 2. The story was just too similar in thematic beats and story telling.

With two games out and set in stone, it was imperative that the next story reflected the already loved and established characters. With stories that hadn’t been entirely finished yet, the world needed building. The environment and threat from Umbrella needed to be extrapolated upon. When the “Nemesis Prototype” was chosen, and it underwent an exclusivity deal with PlayStation, cementing it firmly in place.

From there the wheels began turning into motion. Key plot lines were changed to include Jill Valentine from the first game as the main character for this new title.

She was chosen because she could still escape the city, and tying the story in closely with the events from the second game allowed many of the thematic elements to be kept from the initial prototype. They could still keep them well in-hand, without crapping all over the general premise that the “Nemesis Prototype” started with.

Shinji Mikami stepped in to help, as his previous experience gave him insight as to just how the game should be produced. Ultimately, the game is a mixed bag. Now let’s discuss why.

Story Troubles

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis makes the entire Resident Evil lore a bit messy thematically. Some parts take places before the events of Resident Evil 2. Meanwhile, others take place during the events, and some take place after the events. This makes the game stand as a strange narrative window into almost all of the early Resident Evil plot lines.

Jill is a former S.T.A.R.S. Alpha team member. She is coined by Berry, another teammate as the maser of unlocking.

In the first game, what started as a search for missing Bravo team members went south when monsters chased the group deep into the forest. Taking refuge inside the mansion, sinister truths began to unfold as zombies and other monsters run rampant.

At the start of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis Jill recounts the events. When the team returned to report what they’d seen at the mansion, the truth wasn’t received well. Due to the mishandling of information, and conspiratorial cover-ups, the dangerous T-virus has run rampant in the heart of the city. Now she must survive the hordes of zombies all over again.

Umbrella wasn’t going to go down without a fight. They had a new master plan. The pharmaceutical company gone wrong had a new bio-weapon they’ve been working on. This one is intelligent and deadly. Releasing it into the city streets, they’ve given this abomination one single mission. To eradicate remaining S.T.A.R.S. team members, and this creature will prove to be Jill’s most dangerous opponent yet.

As she calls it “My last chance, my last escape“. She attempts to flee the city, and bring light to these new horrors. During her escape, Jill teams up with a member of Umbrella’s own mercenary unit. A man by the name of Carlos Oliveira.

While it’s true that plot line itself is fairly straightforward, trying to break down exactly when certain events take place in relation to Resident Evil 2 can be a bit difficult. Thankfully though, this only really influences the most die-hard fans. An average player won’t be impacted by the questionable bits of lore buried deep.

Resident Evil has never really had the knack for complicated storytelling, particularly in it’s earliest games. What makes the plot of Resident Evil 2 so good is that it is very cleanly cut and masterfully written upon those surface level ideas. The details embedded into the core of the game need not be considered by the casual fans, and I think that has a lot going for it.

Meanwhile, Resident Evil 3 just can’t hold up as well. It can be too easily compared on a surface level, and to differentiate the game from its predecessor you need those finer details and several times playing the game due to branching paths. I’ll get to that later. For now the only point I want to make here is that most titles in the franchise linger on the surface elements.

That is where most gamers will collect the vast majority of the plot elements, and Resident Evil 3 fails to accomplish surface level storytelling. You need to be willing to dive deep to get the best out of it, and that shouldn’t happen in a zombie shooter.

This game requires that you understand the entire lore of Resident Evil up to that point. The events at the manor play a large role in the backstory. The corruption between Umbrella several key characters from the previous two games can’t be understated either. If you don’t know of these games, you likely have no idea what I’m talking about. That’s my direct point. The devil really is in the details on this one, and that makes Resident Evil 3: Nemesis much harder to simply dive into blindly.

Nemesis or Mr. X Clone?

Welcome to the devil within those details I mentioned above, the main big baddie of the game. This is another point of contention for the game. Nemesis is a clunky bugger on a good day, but we’ve already seen his mechanical style before. He chases the player in key moment of gameplay. Sound like something we’ve seen before? Well, it should because Mr. X does this during Resident Evil 2.

Many times when Nemesis crops up, the player can choose to fight or run away. Some battles are scripted boss battles that can’t be avoided, but there are plenty of times you can just run away too. This is a good time to discuss the multilayered storytelling, and the choose your own adventure style of gameplay. Occasionally, the player will encounter a moment when time slows down and the screen fades a bit to a whiteout.

Two choices will come onto the screen, and you have a few moments to choose one before the game picks for you. Doing nothing will always choose the option highlighted first. These moments don’t always include Nemesis, but it happens often enough with him that this is as good a section as any to discuss it.

I think this is why I love the game so much, and why it is my favorite. The layering of complex choices upon a first or second run of the game are staggering. For example, the first time this happens is an encounter with Nemeses. You can choose to run away, or you can choose to fight him. Here’s the funny thing though, you don’t have to fight him even if you choose the option to do so. Instead, you can run up to the dead body of one of your teammates and collect his identification card so that you don’t have to find yours later.

After grabbing it, you can run inside the police station and avoid the fight. Or if you choose to fight him accidentally, you can just run inside the police station anyway having done nothing.

This sort of complex narrative is done through player interaction, and it builds a very distinct style of gameplay that just can’t be overstated. You have options, often times way more than you think you do. Being creative and thinking about how best to tackle a situation is the core of the Resident evil formula, but here it really thrives.

How you choose to play after you’ve made a clear cut choice matters. It can and often does split the narrative path.

This matters on a personal level, and tactically it offers a far more robust gameplay experience on top of it. Without this key detail, Nemesis would certainly be a Mr. X clone many claim him to be. However, because these events are so often tied to a Nemesis encounters in some way, he’s absolutely not a clone, he stands on his own merits.

Your choices change some of your item pick-ups, bits of the narrative, and other small details. Each choice gives you a lot of tiny tactical options. Therefore, I firmly stand on the opinion that Nemesis is a much more improved villain over all. This is simply because the main story ties to him in a way that Mr. X could never hope for. Mr.X is an on rails experience, and he feels that way. Nemesis is on rails too, but at the time the game released he didn’t feel that way. That’s the difference here.

That being said, I still stand by what I mentioned before too. A casual player will miss out on the value this can offer. This concept is made for a hard core Resident Evil fan first and foremost. If you’re not going to think around the choice you pick, or you can’t think fast on your feet with all of the previous knowledge of Resident Evil games you should have by this point, most of the super small details will be lost on you.

Tank Controls and Dodge Maneuvers

Let’s talk about the new mechanics and the old. You know the game looks good for it’s time, even if it looks a bit trashy nowadays. You also know the soundtrack had to be good, and that’s a fact too. Typewriters and ink ribbons return, as well as all of the other stuff from previous games. There’s not much new here, though now there’s a gun powder system, that’s fairly standard and expected in the franchise now. Back in the day it was really cool, but why gush about something we’ve all been exposed to by this point?

So, we go to the core contentious mechanics that heavily influence the fandom. The Tank controls, and that dodge mechanic from hell. First however, let’s discuss something very few people bring up, in a segment I like to call “zombie eats bookshelf”. See for yourself…

See the zombie? See that bookshelf? He does that every single time! Without fail, I have yet to see him not have a go at the bookshelf instead of me, the fleshy person he should be after. This zombie absolutely loves that shelf. He won’t ever attack me unless I stand there long enough for him to figure out how to turn around. All of the other zombies could be dead, and he’s still playing with that shelf. Every single time, on any play through. He is not the only zombie to favor a wall or some other object either. The zombies are dumb, very, very dumb.

The enemies have never been too bright in these games, but certain ones are regularly more stupid this time around. It’s a real issue in this game because I notice it more in this one than in previous titles. This zombie tends to be the worst of them, which is why he gets the spotlight for most idiotic bullet sponge in the game in my opinion.

Okay, now then, onto take controls. I’ve said this before but tank controls deserve to be a gameplay choice, and I will 100% fight on that hill until the day I die for one simple reason. For me, it makes many games easier to play and enjoy. It doesn’t suit all gameplay styles though, and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis proves this in spades.

Now the tank controls themselves are fine. There’s nothing wrong with them even slightly, however a new gameplay mechanic was added that is without question very problematic. This little piece of unholy garbage is known as the “dodge maneuver”, and it’s just as crappy as you’d think it is by name alone.

What make tank controls fun for me is their predictability in the right sort of space. I know that when controlling my character, it will only run forward in very specific ways, and turn under very direct parameters. Tank controls aren’t a fluid control system. That’s why I like them.

However, the dodge maneuver takes everything I love about tank controls, and it ruins them. First of all, not only is the move clunky, it is very unpredictable. You might as well just send your character directly into the enemy you were trying to avoid. Trying to dodge will likely do it anyway, the thing is useless to anyone who isn’t a seasoned pro at the game.

The maneuver isn’t exactly player friendly, not to mention entirely not needed. That is the maneuver’s only saving grace. You don’t actually need to use it, and you can beat the entire game without having to use it at all.

Yep, you read that right. We don’t need this thing, the good ole fashioned Resident Evil “bait-and-run” works well enough on zombies. It’s the tried and true method. As for Dogs and other dangerous enemies, your old skills in previous games will serve you better than that maneuver.

Stop, look, and listen in every new area. All of the old hallmarks are there, including obvious warnings and attack patterns. Yes, some enemies move faster in this game sometimes, but you can and should be outsmarting or outrunning them. Classic Resident Evil has never been about blasting your way through everything, and it’s not about that here either.

If you ignore the dodging mechanic will you take a few hits? Oh yeah, sure, you will. However, you probably would have taken just as many, if not more hits just by using the damn maneuver anyway. You can still get the best rank in the game, never having used it once. Leave that thing to the top tier speed runners, the rest of us don’t ever need it.

Virtues of Easy Mode

This is the one and only game in the series that I will praise for having an easy setting. In most other Resident Evil games, having an easy mode only makes enemy placement or some puzzles easier to contend with. Enemies in these games are “bullet sponges” nine times out of ten on harder difficulties. Killing certain zombies qualifies as a strategy, and you don’t earn your Resident Evil stripes unless you know what zombies will screw you later. In Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, though having an easy mode set up the way it does actually has replay value.

On this mode, you’re geared out hard core. You have a wealth of bullets and ammunition at your disposal, and you can basically blast your way through the entire game. Unlimited ink ribbons and even coveted Magnum rounds are in the first item box you come across along with a slew of other healing items and weaponry.

You don’t have to play by the rules. You can run the early game with that high end weaponry. With unlimited saves, and more firepower than most people would ever know what to do with, this thing isn’t exactly an “Easy Mode” as much as it is a “Fun Mode”.

I’m actually kind of sad not all the games utilize this mentality, because easy mode turns Resident Evil 3: Nemesis into a glorified fun house and there’s something to be said for just toying around in the game every now and then.

In other games, this would be the worst idea possible, but Resident Evil 3: Nemesis has branching paths. Having a mode like this allows even the most casual players to see all of the options without investing too much time into the game. They can just recklessly blast their way through with no loss of difficulty later when they play for real.

This mode is far too easy to prepare you for harder difficulties, so the addition hurts nothing. Enemies basically melt, and your item boxes are bursting with all the equipment you need to thoroughly trounce Nemesis in every encounter you have with him if you’re even halfway competent. If you want the true ending, you still have the play and beat the game on the hard setting with absolutely none of the advantages easy mode gave you.

After playing easy mode, the curve in difficulty will be absolutely astronomical for the unsuspecting player.

As much as I love the typical way to play the game, I’ve got to admit, toying around in easy mode every now and then isn’t half bad either. Yeah, there’s absolutely no real difficulty at all, but it is fun. It has a real place here, and this is the only Resident Evil game where I will praise its inclusion.

Final Thoughts

This is a hard final thoughts to write. It doesn’t come easy to me, because I love this game, but at the same time it is a mess beyond words sometimes. I guess that’s the acknowledgement I need to give it. Let’s do that, then.

Let’s end right back where I started. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Just because Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is my absolute favorite game in the classic series, that doesn’t mean I don’t see the flaws. I do, trust me, they’re everywhere.

The game is a mixed bag. I’ve praised it, I’ve bashed it, and I still can’t help thinking that my not so favorite zombie will still toy with the bookshelf next time I play the game. I’ve got my complaints with the game mechanics, and yeah the story was a bit clunky. Nemesis isn’t perfect, and although the branching paths are my favorite part of the game personally, I can see why people wouldn’t like them.

When you boil it all down, the game can’t possibly stand on the same level of quality as Resident Evil 2. There’s no denying it, I won’t try. The game was a major letdown for a lot of people. They had high expectations, and the game couldn’t live up to them.

Still, it’s not a complete failure either. This game had a lot of things going for it, and it was nice to have Jill back for another main series title. The easy mode is pure fun to play, and the freedom of gameplay and narrative choice surpasses both of its predecessors by far.

That being said, Resident Evil 3: Nemesis is the game that I like best. At least when it comes to the classic Resident Evil titles. I can’t urge you to play it, objectively it just isn’t that earth shattering. I refuse to tell you to avoid it, because I like it too much, and maybe someone else will to.

This thing is a very old game. If you you must play every Resident Evil game out there, pick it up and enjoy. If not, that’s okay too. Don’t feel like you’ve lost your chance at a true piece of monumental survival horror history. This game isn’t like the ones that came before it. Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2 have the claim to fame, and those are the ones you should pick up if that really matters to you.

You can check out some of our other content below. I hope you find something you enjoy. Also, please consider following our other platforms and supporting us on Patreon. It keeps the blog advertisement free, and allow Kreshenne and I to produce more content for you to enjoy.

This has been Kernook of “The Demented Ferrets”, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll catch you in the next post.

Anime Review: Claymore

Warning: The anime I am reviewing today is called Claymore. It is rated TV-MA (Mature Adult). Therefore, it is not suitable for young viewers. The series contains adult themes.
Mature Content: Without question Claymore has graphic violence and gore. Children are absolutely mistreated emotionally and physically in the series. A male character flat out states he intends to rape an adult woman.
Kern’s Disclaimer: This is not just a typical hack-and slash action show. It should not be treated like one. Know that going into it. One more time for the people in the back. This anime is NOT for young or impressionable viewers. If you have delicate sensibilities regarding the content warnings above, maybe just don’t watch this anime. I won’t be held responsible if it triggers the absolute crap out of you.

Did you read the warning? I put that there for a reason, so you better have read it. There is some content in this anime that even gets to me a little, and I’m no snowflake. Anyway, if you didn’t heed that warning, that’s your problem now. I did my due diligence as far as I’m concerned. Assuming you did read it from this point on, let’s get started.

Hey everyone, it’s Kernook here. Yeah, it’s time for another review. Today I’m going to talk about an anime that isn’t perfect, in some ways it isn’t very good at all, however in others it truly shines. I have always enjoyed it, despite its many flaws. There aren’t many series quite like it in my personal opinion. This anime is called Claymore.

Now, depending on your particular tastes in anime, there’s no shortage to pick from nowadays. As fans, our choices for solid anime has never been better. However, if you were a fan back in 2007, you know that the anime fandom was quite a bit different.

We didn’t exactly get the same flood of series that we do nowadays, and while we got a plethora of great shows over the years, fans had a tendency to cling onto their chosen favorites for just a little while longer. Mostly this is because a favorite and beloved anime was just harder to replace.

This is especially true for anime that deviated from the normal offerings of a yearly line-up. Yes, I do mean yearly, because back then full seasonal floods were just harder to find legally. We still had a lot to choose from, but nothing like the magnitude we do today.

Needless to say, when an anime manages to hold my interest for any length of time, I am impressed. This one stands my test of time. Claymore lingers in the back of my mind as a series I can fondly recollect, to me that is vastly important.

It was directed by a lesser known man by the name of Hiroyuki Tanaka. You may not have heard of him, because although he occasionally deals with extremely popular anime, he rarely dabbles in positions widely acclaimed by the anime fandom at large. Funnily enough, he would later have his hand in shows like Attack on Titian as an assistant director.

Dark World Done Right

Claymore is the sort of series that demands a particular attention to detail. There’s a lot of carefully embedded themes that help to build the lore and law if its world.

Animated by the studio Madhouse, it stands the test of time, more or less.

Even when the scenes do look dated by today’s standard, I’d never think them awful. The series is packed with action, and dips in quality do happen from time to time. This is not their best work, but it’s certainly not terrible either. Corners were cut, but never in a way that makes you truly cringe.

There’s a real sort of grit and grime that allows this series to age very well. When it wants to look beautiful or captivating, it does. Red pools of blood can shimmer in the darkness like a dark omen in one moment, while in the next a moonlit sky can softly drape across the land. There’s a duality here, layered in a way that only an anime like this can really pull off.

This is a historical, nearly medieval world. As many anime tend to do, it takes place in an alternate universe from our own. Plenty of sinister little truths lurk behind every corner, and emotional levity comes in small doses. All of this is encapsulated with a sunning soundtrack that is perfectly fitting for the themes at play.

Due to the existence of monsters known as Yoma, the people in this world are tormented and live in fear of their existence. This stands to good reason, as Yoma tend to feed off of humanity. They are quite demonic in behavior, but not necessarily in appearance. You see, not all Yoma make themselves obvious. Yoma can live among humanity, blend in as a human and act as a human might.

Yes, that’s right. These aren’t your typical monsters under the bed. Yoma can live among humanity, and might linger there without being found. How do they do this, you ask? Simple, a Yoma can take the form of any human that they’ve eaten. So long as they’re careful and calculating, an unsuspecting village may never know a Yoma lives among them.

Due to this, Yoma are not to be pitied. They are inhuman creatures, often posing a great threat to society and therefore they need to be expunged.

This is where the Claymore come in to the narrative and the plot begins in earnest. Claymore are the ones that take down these beasts.

Warning, there are spoilers beyond this point. If you don’t want spoilers, just go watch the show (provided you keep in mind the warning I gave above). Go find it, and watch it. it’s on Funimation, and I think maybe Hulu. There is an actual age gate on the anime on most reputable websites. That means you’re going to have to actually log into the website, like Funimation for example, just to watch the series. Anyway, with that said, let’s continue on.

The Story

Dotting the landscape there are sleepy little towns that would otherwise be peaceful. However, the townsfolk have come to the conclusion that a Yoma lives among them. This poses two different threats. The first is that Yoma would eventually eat them if it continued to live there. The second is that the townsfolk would have no real way to detect the Yoma hiding among them. For all they know their best friend or loved one could be the Yoma simply hiding its true form.

There is really only one way to deal with a Yoma, and that is to hire a Claymore. Now a Claymore is many things, all of them equally as deadly as the Yoma themselves. You see, these women are half Yoma, half human hybrids. Even when they sustain incredible bodily damage that would kill a human, they don’t easily die. Normally they heal right on the spot. For example, even while impaled like this Claymore is below, she is still fighting fit to take down her enemy.

They’re created and trained by a mysterious group known only as “The Organization” an otherwise nameless entity. As far as these women are concerned, they may as well be entirely removed from humanity itself.

A Claymore is created by cramming the blood and flesh of a dead Yoma into a living, breathing, human female. This combination slowly turns her into something not quite human, not quite beast. They’re given their names because of the swords they wield, and the fact that they’ve completely renounced the concept of a peaceful human existence.

They are not to trifle in human affairs, kill humans (even when those humans are bandits, thieves, and murders themselves), or in any way think themselves as equal to humanity. There is no exception to these rules, and a Claymore that defies them will be hunted down and killed by her own kind.

Assigned by numbers denoting their skill, they are considered mere monsters, even when it is clear that they are not entirely like the humanity they vow to protect.

The fate of a Claymore is hardly peaceful, and usually ends tragically. Anyway you look at it, their mere existence is rather lonely and their fates promise to be the selfsame as the Yoma themselves. If a woman becomes a Claymore, her days are numbered and that’s just a cold hard fact that these women accept. They understand that this is the way of the world, and will not change.

The story one follows one such woman. A fairly young one at that. Her name is Clare, and as a Claymore her job is to dispatch where she is told to go, and slay Yoma that put humanity in danger.

She is a person of very few words, favoring action over mindless diatribe, and because of this her speaking lines are rather limited, despite how central she is to the story and overall plot of the anime. This is not a disservice to her character. In fact, I’d say this is a marked improvement over the typical protagonist that doesn’t know how to shut the hell up.

Clare acts decisively, with brutal skill in combat and a very clear-cut view of the world. Clare is many things, but she is no pushover.

She is not to be trifled with as far as humanity is concerned. Now unfortunately whenever you have an incredibly self-assured, competent female protagonist, running around in a world full of monsters, you also tend to have the jackass male sidekick.

You know the kind I’m talking about…

They’re usually worthless, and often times beyond help. These are the sort of guys you want to hit with a hammer, because they could not possibly survive in the world that surrounds them in any meaningful way. There’s just no way that the world would not eat them alive.

Well, sorry to say it, but we have one of those, yet again. His name is Raki and he is young, stupid, and you could get the same characterization out of a little lost puppy on the side of the road. Actually, that’s likely an insult to puppies, my apologies. Not even his own village likes him, he’s exiled from it.

In any case Clare saves Raki from the Yoma that she was hired to kill, and begins to teach him the ways of the world. This is the lens in which the entire series hinges heavily on from this point. Monster fights, traveling the world at large, and Clare trying to keep Raki out of harms way.

When I mean that this is the shows core themes, I’m not kidding. When we aren’t following Clare and Raki, We’re following a different Claymore named Teresa and through that lens we’re shown Clare’s backstory. In these flashback episodes of sorts, we come to find out Clare’s past isn’t incredibly dissimilar from Raki’s own.

She was once a human girl with no place to turn, and traveled with world with Teresa. As a child, Clare was enamored with the concept of becoming a Calmore, not fully understanding the terrible life they tended to lead. After a rather gritty and sorrowful series of events, Clare is left alone in the world again. She decides to become a Claymore herself, just like the woman who had been trying to raise her.

All in all, the plot is serviceable, and outside of Raki, the cast is generally well rounded when they show up. Now sadly, as many series tend to do, it deviated strongly from it’s manga in the ending.

If you are a written media purists, this will no doubt make you want to throw your chair at your nearest screen. For the rest of us, the ending isn’t amazing, but the journey proceeding it is well worth it regardless.

Final Thoughts

Claymore is not without flaws, and it makes some very questionable choices on occasion. There are times that you can only be brought to wonder what drove such narrative decisions forward. The inclusion of certain small details and the firm exclusion of others can make the show sometimes feel a bit muddled. It is never for very long, but this is something to keep in mind.

Honestly, in my personal opinion the show is at its best in the flashback episodes of regarding Clare and her upbringing. If the show contained more of that, it would probably be better off.

Furthermore, Raki acts like a small boy, a mere child. Yet, he is quite clearly a teenager. The average viewer wouldn’t be wrong to expect better of him.

I was certainly very disappointed by the lack of a decent male lead. I’m not saying he needed to be a bad-ass, but his lack of emotional maturity is completely agitating. He can be prone to complaining, and crying. For some, it might actually be a deal breaker. He is that bad, and I will not defend him.

This brings me to my last thought. Claymore is a mature story of losses and grievances. These women live within a society that just doesn’t have any room for compassion or understanding. Each Claymore has her own reason to become one, or at the very least, a reason to exist in spite of being one. The world they live in lacks emotional warmth, and their eventual deaths promise to be violent ones.

These are themes that constantly pervade the narrative, so while this ensures awesome fights, it also promises bleak outlooks upon their world at large. If you like dark story telling, this anime has that. You can dip into the waters of cynicism as much as you like.

In my opinion, the ideal viewer for Claymore would probably be a person able to handle mature themes and dark world building, set in an almost medieval society. The series is age gated by most reputable places, and has some blood and carnage, so that part matters. Secondly, this ideal person would also need to be in favor of a strong female protagonists and supporting cast. Overlooking the walking insult that is Raki, decent male characters are few and far between.

Lastly, an ideal viewer would likely be one that hasn’t read the manga before. The deviations are just enough to be agitating. This is a series you want to watch first, and read the written material after.

In the end, if you’re the right kind of viewer, I think that Claymore is certainly worth your time. The series has plenty of heart and soul, but it’s also a bloodbath in combat scenes.

I return to it from time to time, and I don’t regret it when I do. It is far from perfect, but the journey is enjoyable. I return to it from time to time, and I don’t regret it when I do. It is far from perfect, but the journey is enjoyable.

However, if you expect the hero to always win, with no trauma or strife, find a different show. This is not the one for you.

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This has been Kernook of “The Demented Ferrets”, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll catch you in the next post.

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RWBY White Trailer Retrospective Review

Kern’s Note: Sorry that this thing was so late in coming out. We were having a few difficulties and had a lot of things to do in order to fix the issues. Now that it is here we are super proud of it. Audio issues were sorted out too, so that makes it even more awesome!


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The Retrospective Review

If you haven’t seen the RWBY White Trailer, yeah, you might want to go do that. It’s on the Rooster Teeth website, and it’s free. As always, please support the official release of the series.

Last week I kicked off my retrospective series with the RWBY Red Trailer. For a brief recap, I mentioned that the four character trailers that kicked off the series had three goals in mind. They were as follows:

  • To introduce the main four girls.
  • To teach the viewer how to enjoy the combat in the series.
  • And to give viewers a taste of the world through the eyes of these characters.

When the RWBY Red Trailer first released, I wasn’t exactly a huge fan of what I saw.

As I said last time, hindsight for the series is 20/20. Retrospection matters. My love of the RWBY series didn’t come until I saw the release of the RWBY White Trailer and the introduction of Weiss Schnee.

If Ruby’s trailer is all about sentimentality and holding the things you cherish the most close to your heart. Then, the trailer for Weiss is all about the rejection of emotional sentiment. Of leaving behind childish whimsy, and losing one’s own identity in the process.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look. The trailer opens slowly, a quote flashes across the screen. This quote reads like this:

Then a spotlight shows overhead, the garbled mutterings of an announcer calls her name. The audience cheers as a white haired woman takes the stage. Her face is elegant, but there’s a slender scar blemishing her skin over one eye.

She’s dressed in white, with a splash of red, and a hint of black. Her expression stays serious in front of the crowd. The soft fluttering of of a piano begins to play as the crowd cheers.

By this point in the trailer, less than 30 seconds into it, I had already found myself captivated by Weiss Schnee as a character. Where the RWBY Red Trailer failed to instantly grab my attention, the RWBY White Trailer had captured me from the very beginning.

Weiss looks out to the crowd, takes a breath and closes her eyes. Then the song begins in earnest. Unlike Ruby’s song that was merely playing as a music backdrop and only had a few lyrics, this time Weiss is performing her personal story for the world to see.

Her song, known as “Mirror Mirror” is a testament that Jeff Williams and Casey Lee Williams really know how to make a soundtrack shine.

This song is probably one of the saddest in the original soundtrack for the first RWBY Volume. As the song plays, Weiss is shown to be singing it, although, her actual voice actress didn’t do the vocals. The woman singing is Casey Lee Williams.

This trailer turns into a flashback as Weiss continues to sing, her eyes still closed. The camera pans lower and the stage fades to black. A reflection of Weiss glows from the dark abyss as she stands atop it, a perfect reflection.

If you haven’t noticed by now, this is a far deeper, far more introspective sort of trailer on it’s face. This make sense. Weiss is the most reserved of the main four girls. She’s cold, almost needlessly cruel in the first volume of the series. However, that’s well and truly a facade at best.

Without this trailer for character context, which I will get to in a moment, Weiss would be little more than a complete and total ass during Volume 1. Episodes like “The Stray” and notably the episode “Black and White” which is the Volume 1 finale, rely on this trailer. It explains everything about Weiss and her eventual blind acceptance of Blake.

The reason is because Weiss isn’t actually an ass, and she’s doesn’t really carry the hyperbolic thoughts and feelings that she’s expected to have. She spouts them, but they’re not real. This trailer is a looking glass into all of it, literally. It gives us all of her key struggles, and allows us to see this girl behind the Schnee family mask.

Anyway, at this point her eyes are closed. It is now implied that anything beyond this point is a flashback of a memory. When her eyes open, kneeling in front of her is a gigantic armored knight. It bows to her in reverence, as if she were its queen.

Then, it stands to its full height, grasping its sword as the tempo of the music changes.

No longer just a soft piano melody with gentle singing, string instruments and percussion are added into the mix. The soft classical music begins taking on new urgency as Weiss faces down her opponent. Swords clash as Weiss faces down this armored giant, deftly avoiding his blade.

Her combat is almost like a dancer’s grace as she continues flitting around the arena floor like a ballerina. She uses her sword with frontal swings and forward jabs just like a fencer. Weiss relies on a complicated mix of pure skill, dust, and her semblance to gain the upper hand.

As I said before, the trailers build upon each other. In Ruby’s trailer, combat was the thing breaking the fourth wall.

For Weiss it’s the lyrics of her song, breaking the forth wall instead. This is her personal story. She’s telling us who she really is as a person, and she’s not going to wait for us to figure it out.

Just like how she treats Ruby in Volume 1, she’s not going to dumb herself down for our sake. The lyrics are poetic and layered in symbolism. I will speak about that in the analysis of this trailer, which is a separate post. For now let’s just focus on the poetic storytelling at play.

Viewers need to stand on Weiss’s level emotionally, and understand what she’s telling us. We viewers, are the mirror she’s talking to. It’s not just that she’s talking to herself. She wants to be heard, she has asked us if we can hear her in the song directly. She’s asked us if she needs us, because we are that mirror.

She’s not sure if her own merits are good enough. She wants to be taken seriously. She feels that she isn’t. That she is somehow inferior.

Now, this is exactly what Ruby’s trailer referenced in regards to the color “white”.

While those lyrics were a factual assessment, Weiss attempts to explain those facts in poetic and lyrical way, using ambiguity.

Ruby’s trailer is self-assured and confidant. She knows she wants to be a huntress, and she’s ready to show off what she can accomplish.

Weiss is far less sure of herself. She wants the validation of others, but she’s afraid to ask for it. So, she’s asking us, the proverbial mirror.

Her faster and far more ruthless combat is an undertone to this as well. While Ruby shows us a fight that’s fun, Weiss shows us one that’s necessity. Weiss needs to fight this battle. It isn’t a choice. It’s an obligation, like so many other things in her life.

Unfortunately for Weiss, she’s still just a teenager trying to pretend she’s an adult. The adult world of Remnant will bring her down a few pegs, and so does the knight she’s fighting. She cannot stand on the world’s stage alone and hope to succeed that way. She needs others, she needs a place to belong.

In spite of her skill, this isn’t enough to stop the knight from countering every attack she lands on him. Finally he swats her aside like a paper doll.

She lands on the ground looking disheartened, defeated and bleeding…

Then the scene faces to black and Weiss is on stage again. Slowly she opens her eyes. Haunting operatic vocals fill the air as the moon overhead appears from behind dark clouds.

Weiss is still young, and just like Ruby, she’s a dreamer of bigger and better things. It’s just that those dreams don’t align with the world as she currently understands it. Her memories and expectations hold her down.

She’s asking us, the viewers, if she can really stand a chance to reach for her dreams. If she’s even worthy of those dreams at all.

Her eyes close again, and her memory continues. The flashback of how she got the scar in the first place is fresh in her mind.

The knight is still ready for more, and Weiss lifts herself up from the ground. There’s blood on her face, and determination in her eyes. Weiss won’t let herself be put down from a little thing like a head injury.

Instead she prepares herself for another clashing of blades. She’s smarter this time, going on the defensive and waiting for the right moment to take him down.

The song changes tempo again. This time, it’s not haunting, it’s empowering. She prepares her weapon, adjusting her stance, and strikes. A flurry of dust shimmers with every attack. A wave of ice spiking up from the ground as she returns the armored knight’s attack tenfold, effectively disarming him.

Then it’s time for her final attack. She readies her glyphs and the dust inside her sword. Trapping the the knight, she sends herself flying into the air, slicing a pinpoint attack into the knight. This turns him into a powder-like snow.

Sparkles of this now defeated knight fall onto the stage as she finishes her song. The blood on her face fades away. She opens her eyes and looks around as if trying to remember where she is. The crowd cheers for her.

When you saw this trailer for the first time, you probably cheered a little too, even if it was just to yourself quietly. I know that I did.

That’s because in the context of the series, Weiss is person worth cheering for. She’s worth her dreams and her ambitions. She wants to hear that cheering, she wants us, the mirror to tell her that she’s worth it. That’s what makes her so relatable even as early as the trailer itself.

Everyone wants to be told they’re worth something. That they’ve done a good job. Everyone wants just that one moment of satisfaction. That one thing that nobody can take away from them, because they earned that success themselves. That they are worthy of standing upon the worlds stage, accepted based on their own achievements.

In that way, Weiss resonates with that small part of humanity. We, the mirror she’s talking to, and we give her just that tiniest glimmer of hope.

Weiss looks out toward the audience and she offers her final bow. Her reflection is still there, a perfect mirror image upon the floor. Only she can see it. The curtains close, and the trailer ends.

It’s as if through the eyes of the viewer, she’s finally seeing her true self. The person she really wants to be. The person she can become.

The RWBY White Trailer is a showcase of characterization at its finest. A lot of fans claim that Weiss is one of the most interesting characters in the series, at least, on her own merits. I wholeheartedly agree.

In this trailer we’re given far more depth to her character than we ever saw in the RWBY Red Trailer. This trailer built upon everything we were told previously, and extrapolated upon them.

The thing is, Ruby’s trailer focuses more on factual information. For Weiss, her trailer is almost entirely emotional. The fight was in her point of view, and the song lyrics reflect that as well.

The song stands in a league of it’s own, the animation is absolutely fitting, and the fight is captivating from start to finish.

All in all, this trailer is my absolute favorite one in the early volumes. I love this thing.

However objectively, I wouldn’t actually say it’s the best trailer we received. No, in my opinion, that credit goes to the RWBY Black Trailer, featuring Blake Belladonna. It is the textbook definition of what a trailer should be. Join me next time as I cover Blake’s trailer. You don’t want to miss it.

Also be sure to check out some related content, in case you missed it before. Don’t forget to check out the page “All Things RWBY” to see all of our related RWBY fandom content.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets…

“Where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course…”

The Demented Ferrets…

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Game Review: Silent Hill

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In the 90’s, survival horror began to become an iconic genre that spilled into the gaming market

People all over the world wanted to sink their teeth into something a little more bone chilling than the average shooter, platformer, or role-playing game of the time.

Game consoles of the 90’s such as the PlayStation could support better graphics, and PC gaming had been receiving plenty of its own horror classics for a while. Consoles needed to catch up, and fast. Thankfully, two types of horror franchises lifted from the shadows to meet this demand. Both of these titles hit the ground running, but they were vastly different in nature.

When 1996 came around, Capcom released Resident Evil. The horror title showed gamers just what they could hope for when it came to survival horror. It coined the phrase, and that successful effort would change the social sphere of gaming as we knew it.

Konami was hot on the heels of this new bandwagon, and they jumped into these new possibilities for gaming feet first. They aimed to make a game that could become Resident Evil‘s direct competitor. They knew this would not be an easy thing to do, as Resident Evil had cornered the market fairly spectacularly in the horror genera in one single game.

They wanted to create a cinematic game-play experience first and foremost. With this in mind, “Team Silent” was formed with a ragtag production crew. These were people with big ideas and bigger personalities. They didn’t necessarily fit the creative mold that others in the industry did, and that is why they were chosen. There was only one small issue…

The members of “Team Silent” had no idea how to go about making their new game. Horror games were not the staple that they are today. Survival horror was a newly coined term, and it was unknown territory. The team felt the weight of their task weighing down heavily upon them. They had the skills, but they had no idea how to apply that knowledge to a horror title. These once bright-eyed game enthusiasts began to become discouraged under the pressure.

Like many developers do, they began forging their own path. In the end, they ended up choosing a much more subdued narrative for their story. Something far more contemplative and vague than Resident Evil could ever be. All of their efforts eventually paid off, providing a game that split horror fans down two distinct paths.

Each path worthy in their own right.

While zombie fans had Resident Evil to keep them awake at night, others were hungry for something darker and thematically deeper. These fans had a different game to call a masterpiece. This game was known as Silent Hill.

As a gamer, it’s hard not to have heard of these two powerful franchises. While many consider both games it under the branch genre known as survival horror, Silent Hill is far from it. No, this game is without a doubt a psychological horror series.

Released in the early part of 1999, Silent Hill offered players a different type of experience.

Unlike its zombie infested distant cousin, this game provided a look into unsound minds, and along with it, a compelling narrative that wasn’t so simple to unravel. There are still questions left unanswered when it comes the lore of the game, meaning that new players to the series can still find it enjoyable.

With several games, decades of terrifying fun, and a spin-off movie, Silent Hill is by far one of the most fondly remembered franchises that requires a reboot.

For a while, fans even thought we were going to get that reboot when “P.T. Silent Hills” came out in 2014. It was a terrifying playable demo that has it’s own complicated story to tell.

I only wish to give it a brief mention here, because if I didn’t it would be a huge disservice to my love of the franchise, and everyone who worked so hard to bring fans another taste of the franchise.

Sadly, for many reasons, the reboot just wasn’t meant to be. Still, the legacy of Silent Hill, and the franchise as a whole, is something that should be remembered. Both for some of the best gaming in history, and some of the greatest failures later titles provided within horror as a genre.

Surface Level Shenanigans

It’s hard not to know at least a few fragments of Silent Hill‘s story. It may as well be a campfire tale, spoken with flashlights in hand while eating marshmallows with friends. Even so, the concept is effective for sending chills down any spine. The problem is, most of the story is left up to interpretation, and that’s by design. Silent Hill’s creator Keiichiro Toyama, made sure that the plot is as consistent as it is vague.

This writing style is a great way to spin fan-theories, and conjure about what goes on in the game. Unfortunately, since so much is left up to interpretation, and there are multiple endings, not everyone views the events of the game in the same way.

There will always be debates surrounding Silent Hill, and that’s the way it was designed to be. Just keep that in mind as I gloss over the very basic story.

There lingers a fictional town somewhere along the foggy shores of Toluca Lake. Within this small and seemingly insignificant location, a quaint little community resides here. One that probably fell on hard times and left forgotten about. It’s not likely one to attract a boat load of tourists any time soon, but something about that little town is compelling anyway.

As if the town has a voice of it’s own, it sings an almost sirens call. Unfortunate souls are attracted to this gloomy place. They find themselves wandering through a pit of dark truths, and murky discoveries. That sad, destitute little town, is known as Silent Hill.

You play as Harry Mason, a single father who’s on his way to Silent Hill for a small vacation. While driving at night, Harry swerves his car out of the way to avoid hitting someone that seems to be standing in the middle of the road. After waking from the crash, he notices that his daughter, Cheryl has gone missing. With snow littering the ground and fog thick in the air, he sets out to find her.

While Harry attempts to find his daughter, he wanders into the town. There he meets a police officer who attempts to help him, and eventually finds himself entangled in the dealings of a cult that seek to manipulate Harry for their own goals. As the game continues, players realize that the town of Silent Hill may as well have a life of its own.

However, all of that is only on the surface… The game has a deeper story… A darker one… I shouldn’t have to say this, but beyond this point, there will be spoilers.

A Town’s Sinister Tale

The above summery alone makes for a compelling story, but it isn’t the complete story. It’s not anywhere close to it. Instead, it’s a fabrication, made to lure the player in. Remember, this is a psychological horror game, and the story itself is intentionally vague. Nothing is as it seems.

I am now going to gloss over the actual story of the game, and if you haven’t played it before, you may struggle to keep up. This is not a simple premise, and it was never intended to be.

Contrary to what you might think given the details above, the story isn’t one about a father looking for his lost little girl. Even though you play as Harry, it’s not his story that begins to unfold as the player progresses.

Instead, Silent Hill is all about a little girl named Alessa.

This little girl was born into the town’s religious cult. This messed up collection of demon enthusiasts preach a far different bible story than usual. Apparently, the god they speak about returned to the heavens before the world was done being created. This ultimately lead to a flawed, and imperfect design. This god then promised to return one day.

The cult aim to speed up their god’s return the best way they know how. The crazy old lady, Dahlia is the current leader of the cult. She has the idea to use her own child as a means to do it. Unfortunately for Alessa, Dahlia isn’t just the cult’s current leader, she’s also her mother too.

Alessa has psychic abilities, and Dahlia believes that they can use that to impregnate her with god. Let me say that again. Dahlia, crazy person that she is, thinks that she can get her psychic daughter pregnant so that she will give birth to their god.

Obviously, it should come as no surprise that this plan fails spectacularly. The stress of the ritual forces Alessa’s powers to activate, causing catastrophic damage to Alessa, and her powers. During this messed up series of events, Cheryl is created. Once she is, Dahlia can no longer complete the ritual.

To make this explanation as simple as possible, the cult needs Cheryl and Alessa to reunite if they have any hopes to complete the ritual so that their god can be born. Alessa refuses to let that happen, and does everything in her power to keep the cult’s plan from coming to fruition.

Why does this matter? Simple, because the mechanics act as a metaphor for this story.

Everything in this game has mechanical weight that means something to the greater plot. For example, the story I just detailed above is the explanation for the “Otherworld” which is a commonly visited mechanic in the game.

After playing the game enough times, you can figure out that the “Otherworld” is merely Alessa losing control of her powers and her mind every now and then. When she does, her mind allows the darkest parts of her torment to seep freely out into the world.

The monsters that players see are physical manifestations of this poor girl’s suffering. The puzzles are tied to her intrinsically. When you look at the game through that lens, everything begins to come together and make a lot more sense.

Most of the characters are mechanical in nature too. The side cast carry the weight of monologue heavy diatribes. The few actual characters you run into are unstable at best. Some characters openly lie willingly, and others will merely offer a version of the truth. As I said before, the town itself might as well have a life of it’s own, and it certainly seems that way as each person you meet continually muddies those narrative waters.

Harry himself is merely the vessel the player uses to understand this sordid tale. Cheryl acts as the simple narrative device that new players cling onto as the story unfolds.

Intuitive Design Done Right

It would be easy to assume that since this is a horror title, that it would have game design that felt similar to Resident Evil. That assumption would be incorrect. While they’re both horror titles, the way they display that horror is vastly different.

There are a lot of the same hallmarks to horror series sprinkled in the game. Limited ammo, puzzles, and exploration are all part of the greater whole, but in very different ways.

At the time of the game, clunky controls were the staple for the horror genre. To some degree it is a hardware limitation of the time. They make a reappearance here as well. Thankfully though, it’s not as clunky in this game as its survival horror counterparts. I wouldn’t call them “tank controls” exactly. However, that said, running can be a chore on occasion.

Harry moves decently fast once you get him running, but you can’t always outrun every single enemy in the game. Some of the hallways are too narrow for the usual Resident Evil style bait and dodge. This means being prepared to stand your ground tactically. With this in mind, let’s discuss how to survive.

Weaponry isn’t just limited to guns and knives. There are plenty of objects to pick up and use as well, encouraging trigger happy players to take a different approach when it comes down to selecting weapons. Each weapon has its own “recharge” time, so to speak. Some weapons are faster than others, so learning how to time an attack is crucial to a successful enemy encounter.

Ammo should be saved for the larger fights, while other other items can be used to take down a lone enemy or two. Like Silent Hill‘s survival horror cousin, the best choice is to conserve weaponry and just run away when you can. However, because you can’t outrun everything, the average player will need a good stock of weaponry for those unavoidable encounters and boss battles.

As shown above and here as well, some spaces are tight and claustrophobic.

The camera accommodates this aspect well, adding significant tension to any environment. When it comes to the camera itself, it tends to be smooth and easy to control. No forcefully fixed camera angles here.

This allows for easier navigation, and comfortable coordination while in combat. There’s just one downside, it is a very a slow camera. This means anticipating where you’d like the camera to be is a skill players will come to learn quickly. The camera will move on its own to a decent spot whenever you enter a new area, and sometimes it’s best not to adjust it at all.

The concept of exploration is vast, and feels closer to an open world, at least for its time. It’s not as sprawling as an open world game is nowadays, but Silent Hill is a vast town, with plenty to explore.

The player is able to access a decent amount of the town fairly early in the game, allowing the player to stock up on supplies early and often. This is a double edged sword though. Stocking up early can give the false impression to new players that you will likely never run out of supplies, but it is very possible, and very easy to do so.

The game itself has a rather linear and set narrative direction. No side quests here, sorry. The game won’t let you venture too far from the beaten path. Once you’ve entered a building, that similar horror feeling will come flooding back to any players of Resident Evil. The hallways are dark, the areas are often crawling with enemies. Puzzle solving and key finding are the name of the game.

In general, exploration and backtracking are a bit more linear and laid out. A few doors in some locations aren’t meant to be opened at all. Silent Hill asks the player to traverse many locations around the town, so this “on rails” approach is slightly required. That said, environments can still be confusing to a newcomer. There are street names to remember, and fog to navigate. Thankfully, as Harry walks around Silent Hill, he’ll scribble things down on the town map. New players should check it early and often for clues and hints.

The “Otherworld” as Harry calls it, will crop up from time to time, and the player will have to navigate that too. While it might be the same basic area you’ve been wandering around in already, this world is darker, grittier, and different. Previously opened paths will be cut off from access, and monsters can catch the player off-guard if they aren’t prepared for encounters. Previously safe spaces are no longer safe, and this added element makes backtracking fresh and enjoyable.

The puzzles are difficult, hands down. This is one such puzzle, and one of the most iconic ones. Truthfully, it’s a very common puzzle to get stuck on. Silent Hill offered some of hardest puzzles that a game of its day could provide. They’re vast and several are multifaceted, offering vague hints and very little else. They’re not impossible though.

This puzzle here, is proof of that. It’s all about understanding the words that you read, and applying them to a broken piano.

To make it simple to understand, you just need to know three things. White birds are white keys. Black birds are black keys. Some keys are broken and don’t make a sound if you press them. Pushing the keys in the right sequence is how you solve the puzzle.

Puzzles can be solved without looking them up. The game offers you everything you need in order to figure them out. As an added little bonus, the puzzles actually mean something to the core narrative, so they’re not just made to slow you down. They’re made to progress the story in subtle ways.

Unbinding From Hardware Limitations

Silent Hill was praised for its atmospheric dystopia and unsettling visuals. In truth though, the game was designed this way was because it had to be. Due to the limitations of PlayStation hardware, the fog was added to keep everything from rendering all at once. The same could be said for the particularly dark backdrops. Less rendering meant a smoother experience, and faster loading times.

However, this too, became part of the game’s lore. The particularly dark backgrounds in parts of the “Otherworld” were explained by Alessa’s psychic powers. The thick fog that settled over the town was explained as being a product of the nearby lake. The occasional falling snow ties the dreary world together, and helps to make everything much more believable.

On top of that, for its time, everything looks awesome. The careful quality control of visible details were crucial. The game is immersive thanks to each and every environment. Combat is mostly fluid, and each area is truly a spectacle of what horror can accomplish if it is done right.

Characters feel fully realized, although in cut-scenes there can be odd moments when they don’t look quite right. Enemies are fairly disturbed and the horrifying placement of certain details do enough to make a player unsettled as they play.

When it comes to sound, the music is masterful. To me, it is probably the absolute best thing about the game. It is, in a word, iconic. I hear its music and I’m taken right back to the emotions I had while playing the game. Now later titles in the franchise certainly blow this one out of the water, but they were more advanced games, and had a much more powerful consoles at their disposal. With that in mind, the soundtrack to Silent Hill is everything we could have hoped for from Akira Yamaoka.

The voice acting is good, not outstanding, but the actors do their job. Rather, let me put it this way. The voice acting stands up far better than most in horror games of the time.

The only time characters sound weird, is when they should sound that way. It isn’t because characters have a sudden case of inexplicable constipation. Some of the characters are completely insane, and others just aren’t normal to begin with. The acting lines up with that, and really, that’s enough.

Final Thoughts

I do not consider Silent Hill to be a survival horror game. That is my passion when it comes to horror games, and I stand by the fact that it is certainly psychological, not survival.

However, with that said, I have nothing but praise for the original Silent Hill. This game is by far one of the most unsettling games to ever launch on the PlayStation. Furthermore, you’d be hard-pressed to find such a deep and immersive story anywhere else for its time. The story holds up to this day, and the music does too, even if the graphics don’t.

There’s only one reason I have for why a person shouldn’t play this game. It strictly falls down to players who aren’t horror fans. If they’re not, the game wasn’t made or tailored to them, and of course they won’t like it. They shouldn’t go near this thing, if that’s the case. It’s nightmare fuel, plain and simple.

Frankly, I’d say that horror fans who simply want gratuitous gore and simple plot lines should avoid this game too. Particularly if you’re a fan of modern horror that holds your hand and keeps complicated questions of morality to a surface level.

There’s real psychological torment to be found in this game. Abusive situations and trauma linger deeply within the core of the story being told. Silent Hill has gore too, but that’s not the crux of the game. It’s window dressing into the far deeper narrative.

For the rest of us, as in those who occasionally like deeply disturbed horror, this game is worth playing. The experience is unlike any other, and I don’t say that lightly. I could say the same thing comfortably about the first three games in this series. They’re experiences that you just don’t find everyday.

If you like a good horror game, this game is for you. If you enjoy going back to experience classic horror titles in the genre, this game is for you. If you are an absolute diehard fan of horror in gaming, these have to be on your shelf, or someplace in your gaming library. These games are unequivocally made for you.

The original Silent Hill is a true psychological horror game. I love it for that alone. Just like it’s survival horror cousin, Silent Hill has a place on my shelf. It’s earned that place, and all of the acclaim it has received over the years. It fully deserves every ounce of praise it receives going forward too.

It’s 2021 now, and it’s time to put that into perspective. This February, Silent Hill turned 22 years old. Think about that. In America, the game is old enough to have a beer if it wanted. As gamers, we can’t let this game slip into the forgotten corners of our history. It’s too paramount to be forgotten, too important to be bypassed and ignored by younger generations. It’ll slip into obscurity without passionate fans behind it, and that would be a crying shame.

My final thought is; play this game. If you even remotely like horror games with a bone to chew on, experience Silent Hill for yourself. Take the time and do it. It’s worth it. It’s that simple.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets…

“Where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course…”

The Demented Ferrets…

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Kern’s RWBY Red Trailer Retrospective

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Video Production of This Script

This is the finished video regarding the script. It is written, edited, and read aloud by Kernook of “The Demented Ferrets”. You can watch the video on this blog and on YouTube. I hope you enjoy the content.

Opening

If you haven’t seen the RWBY Red Trailer, go do that. It’s on the Rooster Teeth website, and it’s free. As always, please support the official release of the series.

Have you done that? Good. Then let’s move onto the meat of this content. I’d like to go back and re-evaluate my perspective on RWBY, a series in production by Rooster Teeth. That’s why on top of analysis videos for the series, I will also be doing retrospective reviews, like this one.

This retrospective will only be an honest, heartfelt look at RWBY from beginning to end. This won’t be like my analysis content. This is largely based on personal opinion, and very little else.

Prior to RWBY the only thing I cared about from Rooster Teeth was Red vs Blue, a Halo related series. I was only a small fan. Beyond that nostalgia of early seasons, I didn’t care for Red vs Blue, and I still don’t. It filled its time in my life for what it was, I am more than happy with it. I still watch the old seasons on occasion.

Rooster Teeth wasn’t really on my radar again until the RWBY Red Trailer and the announcement for RWBY as a series. Everyone I knew kept talking about it. I couldn’t avoid the trailer, it was plastered everywhere on social media, and bandied about at our favorite bar.

At first, I just didn’t see the spectacle in it. The musical backdrop was interesting. I enjoyed that more than the visuals in front of me.

Ruby was a cute looking character, sure. Yeah, she had this gigantic kick-butt scythe. She was even slicing monsters left and right. Some of her attacks looked very similar to job abilities found in the Final Fantasy games. Since I am a huge Final Fantasy XI fan, and enjoy the Dark Knight job, the concept of a scythe wielding bad-ass appeals to me.

Knowing that the RWBY series creator, Monty Oum was a Final Fantasy fan as well is what originally drew my interest to the trailer. Ruby didn’t fit the mold that I expected, but I knew that the series was influenced heavily by his own passions for fandom, and that knowledge is what had me strapping in for the wild ride that the RWBY series was promised to be. I was skeptical, but also hopeful.

At first, I didn’t see what was so amazing about the trailer. I’d watched plenty of anime before, and that heavily influenced my perspective. It still does, to be honest.

In my analysis post, I stated that the RWBY Red Trailer does strictly what it sets out to do. I stand by that. It doesn’t fail in its goals, not even slightly. It’s just not perfect, either. Then again, nothing really is, so let’s dig into this thing.

As I see it, all of the trailers had three basic goals to accomplish. Firstly, to showcase the four main girls. Ruby Rose, Weiss Schnee, Blake Belladonna, and Yang Xiao Long respectively. The second goal was to teach the viewer how to enjoy the combat in the series. The final goal was to give viewers a taste of the world through the eyes of these characters.

The RWBY Red Trailer introduces us to the first of these girls. Ruby Rose, a young huntress in training.

Ruby’s trailer is all about sentimentality. Although, you might not realize that detail on the first watch. It won’t become clear until after you’ve seen at least Volume 1 of series, it is an important note. However, it’s core themes carries on even now, into Volume 8. I suspect it will carry Ruby Rose and her personal story all the way to the end of the series.

The RWBY Red Trailer is bare bones. It wasn’t cutting edge, and it didn’t try to be. With as low budget as the RWBY series was at the time, it couldn’t afford to pretend to be more than it was. It just didn’t have the budget.

Instead of top of the line animation, fans received animation that focused more upon careful choreography and subtle distinctive movements that define each character. Instead of soundtracks played by full orchestras, music was crafted to resonate with the characters directly. These two things combined is what ultimately made the early volumes of RWBY entertaining to watch.

This makes complete sense, because Monty Oum, the creator of RWBY had several ethos in his life that he spoke about often as animator. You’ve likely heard of these before. One of them is “the rule of cool” which I will speak about at a later time.

Another ethos he has was that to be a good animator, you needed to be good at watching how people lived their lives. This ethos matters for the trailer and his ideas of how characters should be brought to life in general.

Small expressions and actions are the key foundations to characterization. Even in the trailer we see this in spades. I even have a few examples for you.

Notice Ruby’s small smirk, when she’s face to face with the Beowolf. It almost breaks the fourth wall.

It’s almost like she asking us to watch her fight these things. That little smirk doesn’t last long, but it says it all. She’s a little impish, but in this moment she’s self-assured and confidant. Now, compare that moment to the way she walks around in the forest prior to that fight.

Her almost lackadaisical steps across the snow covered land are gentle. They seem light, as if she’s trying not to leave deep tracks.

The sway of her movements imply she’s enjoying herself out in these wilds, she’s likes it here. She also likes fighting these Grimm. It brings her some level of personal satisfaction.

All of this is certainly backed up by the musical composition found in the trailer. As an anime fan, I can easily appreciate when carefully utilized musical talents are pushed to the extreme. “Red Like Roses” manages to pull that off.

The song begins slowly, with a soft melancholy and gentle ambiance as Ruby stands over her mother’s grave. Then, it sets a strong tone that carries through the rest of the piece. Kicking up the beat for Ruby’s fight with the pack of Beowolves keeps the fight interesting when the combat alone couldn’t keep me entirely entertained.

As for the fight scene itself, the choreography is wonderful. Allow me to highlight why. You can anticipate the entire battle, and you can follow along with the flow of the fight. The animation leading up to this showdown has given you everything you need to enjoy this battle.

You can feel each jump and flip, the weight of Ruby as a person.

Since she had been walking light on her feet before, it matches the bunny hops that eventually turn into flips and rolls during combat. The battle here is slower and more precise than we usually see, but since she’s not with a team, and this is a trailer, that makes sense.

The trailer is almost training us, the viewers, how to experience combat in in the series. It’s teaching us how to enjoy these fights, and most of us probably never even noticed that it was doing it.

How is it training us to do this?

Well, this battle keeps the training wheels on for the viewer. Ruby is naturally fast, but she’s slower in this fight, and she does that on purpose. Remember when I said she almost breaks the fourth wall? Well, this would be why I pointed that out.

She’s slower to pull the trigger and fire rounds in her trainer than you usually see in the series. She more mindful of the area around her. When she flips atop a Beowolf, takes the thing’s head off, and then catches some air, we can see this was a carefully planned attack. She did that in order to see her surroundings and the Grimm she’s fighting.

This is what I mean by great choreography. If we’re not following exactly what Ruby’s doing and why, we’re only a single pace or two behind her thoughts and actions. Before the final burst that ends the battle, the music slows and she seems to look at the viewers again, though arguably it’s the wolves off screen that she’s looking at. Still, it’s almost like she’s saying “this is it, what what I can really do.”

The she takes her time to load her weapon and puts a serious look on her face. When she’s about to go “all-out” so to speak, the music ramps up a final time. Then, only after one last pause, she lets loose. After the fight, bullets fall through the air, and Ruby looks self-assured once more. A job well done.

When the scene fades to black viewers are left with two things. The first is a basic concept of physics within the RWBY series. The shattered moon over head, the snow upon the ground, character movements, and other small details have opened us up to this wonderful and vast new world.

The second concept it leaves us with, is a metric upon which all other characters can be evaluated. Now that we’ve seen Ruby fight in a way that almost feels like a game tutorial, we’re more prepared for the later trailers.

The same is true for the songs. We know the lyrics here probably mean something, and we’re prepared to hear the next one and begin putting puzzle pieces together.

Fans did this in spades. Even after the first trailer, theory crafting was flooding the internet. If you were in the fandom during the earliest days, you have the luxury of really remembering this. As the other three trailers came out, a dedicated fan base was already forming. By the time Volume 1 happened, that fan base was already foaming at the mouth for more content.

Final Thoughts

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The trailer is everything it needed to be. A tutorial, an introduction, and a taste of the world. Thanks to the trailer, we have all three. On it’s own this trailer isn’t too remarkable. What makes it stand out is the hindsight you gain after digging into the series properly. I speak of this in my analysis, but the RWBY series is covered in foreshadowing. Every trailer is layered in symbolism that you can extrapolate into deeper meanings for the early volumes.

In the RWBY series, hindsight really is 20/20. It’s important to go back and re-watch the series, trailers included.

This trailer is a touchstone. It’s what started everything. You could say it is the first pebble in puddle, one that would become an ocean of content much later. It is easy to forget that this trailer is really what began the fandom. It may have been the first real taste of the series that fans received in mass, but it is no lesser than its counterparts. In fact I’d argue that historically speaking it’s the most important one.

The first step in a very long journey…

So this is where I leave this trailer, and this post. I’ll continue watching it fondly every now and then. I’ll continue to look back on it, and then I’ll look ahead to the minutia of details buried under its surface.

Maybe now, you will too…

In the next RWBY related post, I’m going to review the trailer that showcases Weiss Schnee, and her battle of mental fortitude, the RWBY White Trailer. I’ll see you there.

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This is Kern, and you’ve been watching The Demented Ferrets.

“Where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course…”

The Demented Ferrets…

To Our Supporters: Thank You!

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At the time of this post there are 3 notable contributors.

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Review: The Promised Neverland

Before I begin, I want to make it clear that I will be discussing The Promised Neverland anime at length, and not diving deep into the manga on this review. I will be mentioning it, but not actually reviewing it. The written media for this series is amazing, and quite frankly it needs it’s own spot here on the blog.

The reason the anime for this series is so good in season one isn’t the same reason why the manga is also wonderful. They are very different ways to enjoy this story, and it would diminish both works to compare them in a single review.

This is not an anime made for young viewers, and thus some of the themes depicted in the series might be considered disturbing. That is the nature of this anime, you have been warned.

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The Promised Neverland is a story that caters to older viewers who enjoy darker tales. It isn’t squeamish about cutting to the core of emotional uncertainty. It doesn’t pull any punches either. This anime is terrifying due to the nature of its implications.

What makes this series so good, is that it doesn’t try to craft a narrative too big for its own good. With tightly packed pacing, it manages not to feel rushed. The themes are dark, but I see no reason to sugar coat things. The anime isn’t subtle about it, so I won’t be either.

The majority of this story revolves around children being raised to be consumed like cattle. This is contained in a society that no longer runs on the strength of mankind alone. Intelligent demons inhabit the world, and they eat humans. If that bothers you, don’t watch this series.

Anime like this one has the gift of animation on its side. If this were a live action, I wouldn’t be able to watch it. The show would border on the line of too inhumane, and absolutely revolting. The fact that it is an anime lends a certain power to its creation, and more accessibility because of it.

After all, not everyone reads manga. There are anime only fans out there, and this first season offers plenty to enjoy for those who like this sort of unsettling story.

That being said, if you do read manga, don’t bypass this one. The Promised Neverland has one of the richest experiences in the written media that I’ve ever come across.

The Story: Removing Childlike Innocence

The general idea of the plot is as trite as you’d expect it to be, if you went by the simple plot synopses. This anime is far from trite and doesn’t much care who it offends as it spins its twisted tale of an orphanage gone wrong.

Basically these seemingly orphaned children are raised at an isolated and incredibly idyllic facility. This place is known as the “Grace Field House”. Unfortunately a few of the smart children discover the secret of this orphanage. It’s not a paradise, it’s hell on earth. With demons running society, their sinister reason for existence soon becomes clear.

These children are raised for purpose of becoming meals, no better than pigs to the slaughter. They’re killed to become food.

This is what they were raised for. Terrified of this, the children of the orphanage rally together in order to escape. This is not made easy. Their caretaker, who they call “Mama”, grew up in a home not unlike this one. She knows all of their tricks, and it becomes a battle of wits to see if the children can escape successfully or not.

Ultimately this the main drive of the story, at least so far as the first season is concerned. The entire thing is wrapped in beautiful animation. The atmospheric soundtrack truly distinguishes itself fittingly in the world of the show. If you’re an anime only fan, the show won’t do you wrong.

The series is directed by Mamoru Kanbe and written by Toshiya Ono during season one. You can clearly see the love and care poured into the series by the team at ColverWorks.

I know many find the manga to be far superior when it comes to the story and how it plays out. However, I’d beg to disagree. It comes down for a simple question for me. Ju

It’s certainly a psychologically bent show, but in what way is it best enjoyed? This brings me to the crux of many disputes regarding the anime. Do you want it to be a horror or a thriller?

The best choices really comes down to that.

Horror or Thriller?

The Promised Neverland is both of these things, but when it comes to the anime it is far more a thriller than it’s manga counterpart. The manga is more terrifying, each turn of the page offers a better shock value.

I couldn’t possibly bring myself to care about that, but I can see the appeal. If you want The Promised Neverland to feel more like a true horror story, you should read the written media. If you want it to feel more like a suspenseful thriller, the anime is superior in every way.

The anime itself takes a different approach. It isn’t trying to shock or awe you with every narrative twist and turn. Rather, it places these plot twists in front of you and asks you to absorb them quickly. Instead of initial shock, you’re expected to keep up with the anime. You don’t have much time to analyze every tiny detail on screen.

The manga asks you to savor every moment, the anime pushes you along for the ride. In that way, viewers are more akin to the children trapped in the orphanage.

For the characters, there is no time to over think every little detail, and outwitting their “Mama” becomes a constant chore. It means the difference between life and death.

For the viewer, the anime offers feeling of urgency that is controlled and contained as every second ticks by.

Written media just can’t promise to provide the same inherent urgency on rails. That all comes down to the pacing of a reader. Faster readers will blow through the content very quickly, and if you’re like me that’s a downfall.

Therefore, the anime experience is one I find far more enjoyable. I get more out of the vocal acting, musical composition, animation style and general pacing of the show than I did from the horror aspect of the manga itself.

Now let me be clear, when it comes to story line, that is entirely a different issue. As of season two the story-line diverts heavily. It has split the fandom in ways season one never did. If you want the full manga story-line, you will not find that in the anime as of season two. You must read the written media to fully enjoy that side of the story.

This is why I must also separate the reviews for this series. Season two is still ongoing, and that’s a discussion for another time.

Characters: Wonderfully Conceptualized, Poorly Executed.

For me, the characters are the worst part of the series in absolutely every way. Characters are handled a little bit better in the written media, but not much. The anime has character failings in spades, and I can easily explain why.

There are many characters in this anime. During season one, most of them are under the age of eleven.

There are only two adults that have any reasonable merit in season one, and both of them are villains. The rest are demons that rarely have screen time at all. What this does is put the viewer into the mind of childish fears and ambitions to resist against authority.

Yet, this series was not made for children. Therefore, typically it would be hard to relate to them as an adult viewer. Only a story appealing to a true sense of danger would give a viewer something to latch onto.

You either have a concept of empathy and recall what childhood was like, or you don’t. You must suspend your disbelief that these young kids could outsmart and outmatch their greatest danger in season one.

Mama Isabella was groomed for her position at the orphanage. She was militantly raised to be superior in every way.

All in all, there’s two choices. Allow the kids to win the day, or let them all die and become demon chow. We know the show isn’t going to murder them all off, so plot armor it is!

This is just another tired old trope to be honest. I find it a little lazy. Especially when it comes to the way certain events play out. Mama Isabella can cripple these children thoughtlessly, and flat out does do that to one of them.

The whole idea behind the “Grace Field House” is that children are the most flavorful and delicious when they’re raised in a happy environment. Free of extensive emotional turmoil. This house provides some of the best human meat available.

Well, that just craps all over the idea that you could break a little girl’s shin, now doesn’t it?

By the time the children are ready to escape, they’ve seen enough of what hell on earth looks like. With that kind of emotional upset, they certainly wouldn’t taste very good. They’d likely be no better than scrap meat at this point. This is what I mean by you just have to suspend disbelief.

Other than the narrative of the world itself, you’d simply watch the show for the sake of hoping the children would be okay. Frankly, that’s a piss-poor narrative to strive for. After all, the main three children aren’t exactly easy to relate to. I doubt many of us were the brightest, most athletic, and top of our class as children.

Thankfully, the anime seems to understand this.

The story appeals to a near parental urge to hope these children beat the odds, but this is still a dystopia and the viewer knows it. Connecting with the characters becomes even more difficult if you think they’ll end up dead and turned into food.

So, to me the characters are flat out the weakest thing this series has to offer. Are they awful? No, not at all. However, they aren’t in the least bit relatable either.

We see this in anime all the time though, and it’s just the way things go. It’s not a deal breaker, it’s just a fact of this type of story.

In Conclusion

The Promised Neverland is a good series, but it is not a masterpiece. I love it, and I do highly suggest it to fan of darker storytelling. It’s great for what it is, but you’ll have to forgive it for what it isn’t.

That said, there is a lot of baggage that you see whenever you pull off the “fan goggles” and really look at the series maturely. It doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, like other anime of its type.

The series has flaws, gaping holes in logic, and a habit of being so far up it’s own ass with its narrative, that it doesn’t see any of it. It’s trying to tell a mature story, but in some ways it’s so childish in its handling of serious situations that it feels like an “edge-lord” tried to write it.

That being said, it’s still vastly entertaining. I know I sound almost ruthless in my critiques, but that comes from watching way too many anime in my life and knowing what I like.

I like The Promised Neverland, and it is completely worth your time to give it a try. However, it won’t ever be an anime that sits proudly on my open shelf. Nope, it’s in an old VHS/DVD cabinet. That’s where I store the majority of the shows that I don’t re-watch very often and have no desire to display.

A word of advice. If you’re going to watch this series, don’t look for any real depth. The character moments can be contrived at times, and others they’re just flat out stupid.

This is a pop-corn anime, philological horror or not. For me, that’s all it can ever be. The thing is, I’m perfectly fine with that. I enjoy this series, and I know others will too.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets…

“Where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course…”

The Demented Ferrets…

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Uniracers Review – Bombastic Fun

Unicycles, high speeds, colorful tracks and a plethora of tricks have made this SNES title a classic for any collector. Tragically, the game is super rare due to a lawsuit, and only 300,000 copies were ever distributed.


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Welcome to my review of Uniracers. In some areas of the world, this game known as “Unirally“, I shall be using the american title, as that’s what I’ve always called it.

The game was designed by British developers known as  “DMA Design Limited,” now known as “Rockstar North Limited“.

On the surface, Uniracers plays like any standard racing game. The goal is to come in first place, or pull off stunts to achieve points in order to pass the stage. The game is sometimes silly or completely absurd. When it comes down to the naming of the tracks or the trick, this all boils down to the game’s core goal.

Uniracers is all about plain stupid fun. Unabashedly wearing idiocy on its sleeve and not giving a rats ass about who that annoys. Unicycles ride on a bombastic 2D tracks, riderless, and with a tenacity that could only come from the most insane stunt rider.

You’re more likely going to be paying attention to the track rather than what your unicycle happens to be doing. This is by design, as stunts will be your key game-play mechanic. They can’t be readily ignored.

Performing stunts causes the unicycle to go faster during races, and certain stages require stunts in order to reach a point threshold.

Overall, the stunts that can be performed are generally easy to do. There is a very low barrier to entry on basic tricks. For one of the easiest, all you do is to get some air and mash a single button. By doing that your unicycle will twist around in the air. This is called a twist, or some variation of the name

None of the stunts are overly difficult on their own, but the tracks can make them exceptionally harder to pull off. The idea is to be able to perform these stunts quickly in tight situations, all while avoiding a “wipe out” that will slow you down.

There are a few types of stages, obviously called tracks. Race tracks, circuit tracks and stunt tracks are evenly spread across the entirety of the game. There are nine total tours with five tracks each. Each tour contains two race and circuit tracks, and one stunt track. Mastering each type is the only way to achieve gold medals.

There are two types of skill curves in this game. The racers you face and the tours you race in.

The Tours

So, let’s talk tours first. As I said, there are nine tours. Each tour is named after an animal, complete with a goofy looking icon letting the player know exactly what they’re in for. Filling the early game you have Crawler, Shuffler and Walker respectively.

Frankly these are the tracks I like the best. I’m an average player, by far not the best. I flat out suck at some of the tours. I’ve beaten all the gold metal tours before as a child, and for the sake of this review, but that was only after months of playing.

I’m not great at this game, but I know it isn’t just me. This is a hard racing game to play to completion due to the style the game is played in. The tracks in every tour can be hard on the eyes due to the color splashes, and depending on the opponent it’s supposed to be completely unfair. More on that later.

Crawler acts as your starting tutorial. It is easy to play even on the bronze setting. It edges the player into the game fairly gently given that it is a high octane racing game.

Meanwhile Shuffler and Walker hone your newly discovered skills. You’re going to need them. The game isn’t unfair with it’s skill curve, but it’s certainly steeper in later tours on bronze and completely unforgiving on gold.

Hopper is your first step into intermediate tours and tracks. By this point in the game, you not only need to know tricks, you need to know when to best utilize them. On bronze it’s a clear ramp up, on gold it’ll eat an unprepared player alive.

Prior to this point, the need for tricks were fairly minimal, and most tracks could be won simply by paying attention to the course, or getting some air and just spinning around in circles.

In fighting games there are techniques known as “first order optimal strategies” or “FOO strategies”. This is a strategy that new players repeat on end because the attack is effective enough to serve their needs. They have no need to learn other stunts until the skill curve rises above the simple ones they’ve picked up. I use this this same analogy when it comes to Uniracers.

The easy tricks will carry you all the way to Hopper. Then you’re going to get slapped in the face by tracks that are no longer toying around. You’re not going to be able to pass the Hopper tour without knowing when to utilize your tricks.

Still, you don’t need to use many of them on the races. You just need to use them well. Jumper and Bounder continue this upward curve in skill steadily.

The next huge stretch in difficultly curve is Runner and Sprinter. These tours promise to make you eat dirt on your stunts, and demand that you’re able to follow the flow of tracks effectively.

I don’t have much to say on Runner or Sprinter because even though it’s a jump in difficulty, it’s an expected one. Let’s be honest, we all know what the worst set of tracks really are. We also know what unicycle is to blame for all of it.

Hunter is the final tour, and it’s as intense as the name sounds. All of your skills need to be utilized, and sometimes it comes down to good RNG.

There is very little room for error on the tracks, and the errors you do make can only be corrected with a combination of well placed stunts and pure luck. Even on bronze, Hunter is no joke. Now, you’ll also notice this is the only one showcasing a “gold” rating, and that’s because to see the final boss in all of his glory I had to get it.

To get that gold rating, it took me several weeks of playing races over and over again to even get all the medals required. It wasn’t very fun because I hate gold level play, but there it is… stupid thing…

Though, as I said, there are two forms of difficulty in this game. The tracks are only half the battle.

The Racers

Onto the racers then. Each track has a bronze, silver, and gold opponent to race against. That means each track needs to be completed three times to have a chance at completely clearing the game.

I won’t bother with screenshots for the first three opponents, since they’re all just different colored unicycles. It’s the last one you face that matters. If your persistent enough to get all the medals the final boss is a special kind of hell.

Bronze medal courses have you racing against Bronson. In the vast majority of my time playing the game as a child, I raced against him. For my casual style as an adult, bronze races suit me best when I’m trying to just relax.

In the early game, Bronson rarely performs stunts to gain speed, and to my experience doesn’t seem to take provided shortcuts. In later tours it’s the tracks that provide the upward difficulty curve, not Bronson himself. He is your baseline barrier to entry on every track, and beating him opens up the silver race.

Silver medal courses have you racing against Silvia, a much more skilled opponent. Silver races are where I find myself most commonly playing when I want a decent challenge. She’s not too difficult, but if you have mastery of the tracks, she’ll give you a good test.

Unlike Bronson, Silvia uses tricks often, and in the right places. She will occasionally use shortcuts as well. She’s difficult to play against if you aren’t using the track to your advantage. New players will be able to learn by observation. A skill that you’ll need in any gold medal race. If you have a track giving you problems, learn by following her.

In gold medal courses, you’re up against Goldwyn. The training wheels are off with this guy. He’ll put you to the test as early as Crawler for casual players and by the Hopper tour he means serious business for anyone that isn’t an expert in the game.

Completing every tour against Goldwyn unlocks the final boss of the game. This monstrosity is named “Anti Uni”, a black and red unicycle that plays dirty. It openly cheats and often ends up throwing attacks at you. Honestly, I hate this thing for all the right reasons.

“Anti Uni” will do everything in its power to screw you over. From making the screen wobble, forcing sections of the track to disappear, and just flat out slowing you down.

This jerk even goes so far as to cackle at you like a deranged chipmunk when it has gained the upper hand. With attacks such as “barf mode” and “screen flip” messing with you at every opportunity, this boss is the most aggriavating thing I’ve ever seen in a racing game.

I won’t lie, I couldn’t get a decent image of “barf mode” because I can’t really look at it for too long without it hurting my eyes. For me, it’s a bit blinding. Screen flip, which turns everything upside down, is by far bad enough.

“Anti Uni” only appears on the Hunter tour, and as an average player I’ll openly admit I’ve never beaten this stupid thing in a gold race.

That’s why I much prefer Bronze and Silver metal races and earlier tours. Playing beyond Silvia just doesn’t have appeal to me. The fact I can choose the skill curve I like best and still enjoy all of the tracks is why I love this racing game so much.

Now, to be fair I have seen my older brother win races against “Anti Uni” at his most difficult when we were kids several times, so I know it’s beatable. I was just never able to do it myself.

Conculsion

With all of that, said I come down to one simple conclusion. The sentiment at the start of this post bears repeating. Uniracers is plain, stupid fun.

At the best of times, the game is tenacious and bombastic in every aspect. Sentient unicycles speeding around on flashy track designs, with over the top rock music playing over them.

As a player you’re pulling stunts that have dumb names sometimes. The combination of gameplay is incredibly immature in some places, and just goofy in others. The game is better for it. In that way, Uniracers offers a high octane experience that’s just hard to match.

In the worst of times, the game is just flat out annoying and sometimes it even tries to be. It can also be very hard to play due to some of the tracks being hard to look at. One of Hunter’s tracks named “Neon” proves my point perfectly.

All that black background smashed against neon green and red? Yeah, that’s grounds for a bunch of not so very nice four letter words in my book. Especially when I need to redo the track for the umpteenth time.

To make that worse, the cocky and belligerent boss unicycle at the end of the game will absolutely screw with you. It has a laugh that inspires the sort of fury that can have you tossing your controller at your screen.

Then again, this game is from the same company that made the original “Grand Theft Auto“. I shouldn’t need to say any more than that. If you love racing games with that kind of devil may care attitude, you’ll love Uniracers.

It’s just that simple.

Maybe someday soon I’ll talk about the lawsuit that crippled Uniracers from being a common household name. However, that’s a complicated topic that requires a video all of it’s own, and that’ll be for another day.

Until then, everyone. This has been Kernook of “The Demented Ferrets”.

“Where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course…”

The Demented Ferrets…

 



To Our Supporters: Thank You!

With your contributions, you make our efforts possible. Thank you for supporting our content.

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At the time of this post there are 3 notable contributors.

Demented Minions: Francis Murphy, Josh Sayer, and Andrew Wheal.


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Anime Review- Bartender

Before I begin this post, please understand that today I am reviewing an anime that contains a bar and the one thing that usually happens in bars. Namely drinking… lots of drinking… hence this warning up top…please do not ignore this warning.

I do not advocate additive and damaging behavior that sometimes revolves around drinking and drugs Therefore, if you are an alcoholic that struggles with sobriety, or you are easily triggered into wanting a drink based on the content you consume, please bypass this post. Sobriety is not always an easy thing to commit to, so every day sober is a day of victory.

You have now been warned. If you read beyond this point, you will be reading a review of Bartender an anime based around a bar and the lonely souls that wander in.

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Bartender stands out as a refined slice-of-life series for older viewers. It isn’t your standard formula by far, and it doesn’t pretend to be.

It is soft and sophisticated without being obnoxious. Themes are sometimes vague, but not needlessly obtuse. Character stories are personal and often layered in simple but deep symbolism .Ideally a viewer would take the time to savor this series. It’s only eleven episodes long.

So, why do I give this show such high praise? Simple, I enjoy anime that doesn’t try to cram itself into the typical mold. Bartender stick out to me as an anime that doesn’t feel like an anime. It certainly is an anime, to be sure. Still, it lacks a lot of the mindless slapstick humor and overblown gags that make anime what it is.

Even anime aimed at older viewers can take a nosedive into childishness on occasion. While that can be fun, that can also get old fast. This series doesn’t do that. Bartender understands that it’s trying to cater to a more refined and thoughtful audience. That’s strictly what it does.

I highly suggest watching this series if you haven’t. There isn’t much conversation around this series, and since it’s a bit older it seems to have gotten buried under a flood of other anime over the years.

This is a crying shame to me, because Bartender is without a doubt a solid entry for an older viewer who doesn’t know what anime is, or may even be adverse to it. This is easily a gateway anime for someone over the age of twenty-five because it lacks many of the overblown tropes you often see in the medium.

It’s perfect for a viewer that has grown tired of the anime that continue clogging the typical seasonal line-up. Experienced anime fans may not have heard of this gem. Non-anime fans may be drawn to its down-to-earth representation of the characters and its story driven focus.

So with all of this said, let’s begin the review.

A Bar That Speaks to The Soul

Bartender first began as a manga in 2004, written by  Araki Joh and illustrated by Kenji Nagatomo. Now I won’t be speaking about the manga here, but as you can clearly see, written media is available for this series if you care to look for it.

Now, I will say this; the manga has clear story arcs. The anime is far more episodic in nature. Although it still contains vignettes about one or more of the characters, it doesn’t have as clear a structure or pacing as the written media.

There is also a live-action drama of Bartender that was released in 2010, but it is a bit harder to find. That said, if you’re trying to get someone who is completely opposed to anime and manga into the series, the live action is the perfect entry point.

The anime released in 2011, directed by Masaki Watanabe, and written by Yasuhiro Imagawa.

No matter what form you choose to enjoy the series in, the basic idea is still the same. There is a bar hidden deep in the alleys of the Ginza district. The bar’s name is Eden Hall. This quiet and lonely little bar is run by Ryuu Sasakura.

Ryuu is thought of as a bar-tending prodigy, widely acclaimed to the point his name precedes him. Rumor has it that he mixes the most incredible and prolific cocktails that anyone has ever tasted.

There’s just one little catch. The bar isn’t open to just anyone. Eden Hall chooses who happens to find it, and who enters its doors.

Customers from all walks of life and different backgrounds come into this bar seeking answers to life’s problems. Ryuu, being the prodigy he is, always knows the ideal cocktail to serve to his guests. This combined with his wisdom allows him to console and guide each afflicted soul that enters Eden Hall.

Knowing this, you can see how the series might come off as dry or bland in some places. You’d be right. It’s intended to be a soft-spoken series. Full of careful contemplation and a plenty of soul searching.

The entire series in wrapped up in wonderful animations and lovely music that can stand on its own merits. Even now, it stands the test of time, no question about that.

A Few Caveats

Number one, the themes may pose a problem. The general ethos of the anime can be thought of as problematic. The general idea is that the right drink, at the right time, is the perfect way to start an earnest inward conversation.

In other words, when a character drinks, they can find the answer to their problems within themselves. This frames the beverage as a looking-glass of sorts. I gave a warning above, but I’m going to cram it here too. If you have once had a drinking problem, or still do, please consider bypassing this show.

Each episode features cocktails that are made with love and care by Ryuu to serve to his guest. They’re poured, mixed, and served in a way that is pleasing to the eye. Given how tempting the animation makes these beverages look, a viewer may end up wanting something similar as well.

It’s very pretty to look at. The animation is stunning, but that’s both a bonus and a drawback when your talking about substances and ways to possibly abuse them.

Characters that come into the series are the sort that have baggage. They talk about their problems, they reflect on the issues at hand, and then have a drink over it. It’s not always portrayed as healthy, either.

The second issue is that it caters to a very specific type of viewer. It is calm, quiet, and methodical. If that isn’t the type of series you like, you’ll get bored fast. It is full to bursting with careful reflection and character stories that linger in subtle ways. That being said, this isn’t an anime about mind games, and there are no plot twists that leave your jaw hanging on the floor. That’s just not the sort of anime this is.

Final Thoughts

Bartender is without question one of the best anime you can find that isn’t on the beaten path. It’s stunning for its time visually, and each piece of music is just as carefully crafted as the series itself. A lot of love and care went into this show.

I find that Bartender is not necessarily for fans that want mystery and intrigue. Rather, the show is best suited to someone who enjoys a good character study without being mired down in endless drivel. Overall, due to the episodic nature of the series, no character lingers too long to outstay their welcome at Eden Hall. Ryuu is certainly entertaining on screen as well, rounding out each episode in a way I found fitting.

So, my conclusion is that you should watch the series if you can. Just be aware of the themes. Do yourself a favor and don’t try to binge it in one sitting. That doesn’t bode well. I’ve tried, and I love the series but even I can’t do it.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets…

“Where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course…”

The Demented Ferrets…

To Our Supporters: Thank You!

With your contributions, you make our efforts possible. Thank you for supporting our content.

Patreon Supporters

At the time of this post there are 3 notable contributors.

Demented Minions: Francis Murphy, Josh Sayer, and Andrew Wheal.

If You Enjoyed This Content…

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PLATFORMCONTENTSCHEDULE
TwitchLive streamsTuesday: 9:00 PM – 12 AM (GMT)
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TwitterAnnouncements, Random tweetsWhenever a live stream begins or content releases. Doesn’t have a set schedule.
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